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Full text of "Azalea; the story of a girl in the Blue Ridge Mountains, by Elia W. Peattie; illustrations by Hazel Roberts"

AZALEA 





OF CALIF. LIBRARY. LOS ANGELES 







And then came Azalea. 



AZALEA 

The Story of a Girl 

in the 
Blue Ridge Mountains 



By 

ELIA W. PEATTIE 



Illustrations by 
Hazel Roberts 




The Reilly & Britton Co. 
Chicago 



Copyright, 1912 

by 
The Reilly & Britton Co. 



Azalea 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I THE MCBIRNEYS 9 

II NEW FRIENDS 28 

III IN HIDING 47 

IV NEW CLOTHES 69 

V THE SHOALS 88 

VI GROWING PAINS 108 

VII THE SINGING 123 

VIII THE KIDNAPPING 143 

IX HAYSTACK THOMPSON 162 

X THE ESCAPE 181 

XI THE SUMMERS FAMILY . . 198 

XII MA SAYS No 215 

XIII AT HOME AGAIN 236 

XIV THE SACRIFICE 247 

XV AZALEA CHOOSES 265 



2131947 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

And then came Azalea Frontispiece 

" She ran out to meet me," he cried 92 

" So that's your story, missy." 178 

He stood there, straight and fierce 270 



AZALEA 

The Story of a Girl of the Blue Ridge 
Mountains 



CHAPTER I 

THE MCBIRNEYS 

The guinea hens wanted everybody to get up. 
They said so right under the bedroom window; 
and the turkey gobbler had the same wish and 
made it known in his most important manner. 
Hours before, Mr. Rhode Island Red, the 
rooster, had expressed his opinion on the subject, 
and from the first pale hint of dawn till the sun 
swung up in the clear May sky, a great company 
of tanagers, robins, martins, meadow larks and 
their friends had suggested, each in his own way, 
that it was time to be awake. 

But really, it didn't need all of this clamor 
to get the McBirneys out of bed. Since sunup, 
Thomas McBirney had been planting cotton on 
the red clay terraces of his mountain farm; and 



io AZALEA 

Mary McBirney, his wife, had been busied lay- 
ing her hearth-fire, getting the breakfast and 
feeding the crowing, cackling, gobbling crea- 
tures in the yard. And three times she had 
thrust her head in at the door of the lean-to to 
say that if she were a boy she'd get up and see 
what a pretty day it was. 

James Stuart McBirney, otherwise Jim, 
thought his mother was right about almost every- 
thing, but he did differ with her about getting 
up when a fellow felt like a log and his eyes 
were as tight as ticks. He had heard her say 
there was a time for everything, and it seemed to 
him that the time to sleep was when a fellow 
was sleepy. Why should sensible people send 
him to bed when he wasn't sleepy and make him 
get up when he was? 

Besides, something kept nagging away in the 
back of his mind. It was something that he 
ought to remember, and couldn't quite, on ac- 
count of being so sleepy. Or perhaps he didn't 
want to remember it. At any rate, it wouldn't 
let him rest in comfort, but pecked away like a 
woodpecker at a tree. So, in spite of himself, it 
all came back to him. Ma was out of " fat pine " 
for kindling, and he must go hunting it. 



THE McBIRNEYS 11 

Well, if he must 

" It don't seem as you ought to be so long 
getting into such a few clothes, Jimmy," a soft 
voice called. " You'll be falling into lazy habits 
if you don't set a watch on yourself, and you'll 
never get shet of them, long as you live." 

" Yessum," said Jim. 

" I can see your pa a-coming 'cross the fields 
now, and I reckon if you don't do some hustling 
he'll catch you dawdling." 

" Yessum." 

"And, Jimmy!" 

"Yessum?" " 

" I've been hearing that Aunt Nan Leiter's 
got a making of that blue dye like I've been 
wanting. I reckon after you've got the wood 
you'd better walk over yon and get the bucket 
of it she promised to give me." 

" Yessum." 

"And, Jimmy, here's your pa." 

" Yessum." 

" Ain't you washed yet, son ? Shame on you ! " 

There was a wild splashing of water on the 
back porch where the wash basin stood, a gasp- 
ing and panting, and then, with one last 
" Yessum," James Stuart McBirney stood in the 



12 AZALEA 

door. His turned-up nose, his freckles and his 
blue eyes all shone as if he had polished them, 
and his curling, clay-colored hair had drawn 
itself up in tight ringlets about his head. 

He had been hoping that no one would pay 
any attention to him, and he had his wish. Ma 
was setting breakfast on the table, steaming hot 
from the hearth. Pa was standing outside the 
door shading his eyes with one hand. 

" What all are you peering at that a-way, Pa 
McBirney? " asked his wife. " Is it some one 
coming over the gap? I heard tell that Sam 
Bixby and his brothers was about to bring over 
a string of horses from their place for trading 
day at Lee. As like as not it's them you're 
seeing." 

" No it ain't, Mary and it ain't nobody we 
ever set eyes on before." 

" Why, Thomas, how can you tell that, with 
them just coming over the top of the gap? " 

"Well!" said Pa McBirney, "I'll be dum- 
foundered! " 

At that Jim and his mother went to the door. 
They thought it was about time to see what was 
ailing pa. The three had a way of sharing every- 
thing; and it was no wonder that they did so, 



THE McBIRNEYS 13 

for they had only themselves for company. Their 
cabin, with its two large rooms, its open chamber 
between, and the lean-to, where Jim slept, sat on 
a pleasant bench of Mount Tennyson, two thou- 
sand feet above the level of the sea. Through 
their yard ran the road that carried people from 
over Burlingame way, on the other side of the 
mountain, down to Lee, the town that lay below 
them in the purple valley. Sometimes, when 
the wind was right, they could hear the mill 
whistles blow at Lee, or the church bells ring; 
and sometimes they could see the houses there 
as plain as anything. But usually the little town 
looked to them as if it were wrapped around in 
purple veils; and when the rain came, it was 
swallowed up in white blankness. 

The McBirneys thought they lived in a very 
pleasant and exciting place. Sometimes as many 
as five or six teams passed their door in one day, 
and it was seldom indeed that anyone drove by 
without stopping to pass the time of day. If by 
chance the McBirneys were sitting down to a 
meal, the travelers were asked to share it with 
them, and to water their horses and take a little 
rest before going on down the mountain. Ma 
said it was a fine thing for them, being taken 



14 AZALEA 

unawares like that. It made them keep the house 
tidy and themselves ready to see folks. But there 
were weeks of rain or snow there on the moun- 
tain side when almost nobody passed, and 
when the McBirneys couldn't get to town; and 
the only sounds to be heard were their own 
voices and the baying of the four hounds, or the 
crying of the trees and the crackling of the fire 
on the hearth. 

Not long ago, there had been four of them 
instead of three. There had been Molly, Jim's 
little sister, a little girl with hair the color of 
corn silk, and eyes as dark as " spider lilies." 
And now she was lying under that tiny heap 
of earth beneath the Pride of India tree, and 
Jim's mother was different quite different 
from what she had been before. Her face was 
sweeter, perhaps, but it looked so that Jim 
couldn't keep from crying, to himself, of course. 
And in spite of all they could do, all three of 
them kept counting Molly in; and now as he 
ran to the door to see what was going on up 
there at the gap, he couldn't help thinking how 
much more fun it would have been if he and 
Molly had been pushing and scrambling and 
pretending to see which could get out first, in 



THE McBIRNEYS 15 

the old way. In those old days his mother would 
have been calling out in the laughing voice she 
used to have: 

" Come along, children, something's going 



on." 



But now father, mother and boy were silent 
as they stood together looking up where the red 
road made its way through the forest over the 

gap. 

Pa was the first to speak. 

" As near as I can make out," he said slowly, 
" it's three wagons loaded to the limit, and a lot 
of people on foot walking alongside." 

" Queer doings, ain't it? " murmured ma. 

" I allow I'd better run up the road a piece," 
Jim said, slipping in his words softly, as if he 
hoped they might go unnoticed, " and see what's 
doing." 

" And I allow," said his father in his most 
downright voice, " that we-all will just sit down 
and eat that there good breakfast ma has cooked, 
and if we keep eating steady we'll be through 
with the whole business before them folks, who- 
ever they be, gets anywhere nigh." 

" Oh, yes! " added ma, " I do wish you'd sit 



1 6 AZALEA 

down and eat things while they're hot and fit 
for eating." 

So they sat down and went at their breakfast 
as if it were a piece of hard work that must be 
got out of the way, and then, having finished 
and slipped what was left to Molly's cat and the 
four hounds, they got out of doors as quickly 
as they could. 

" The procession is hid around the bend of 
the road," said ma. 

But even as she spoke the words, the " pro- 
cession " appeared, though it was almost above 
the McBirney's heads. Both men and animals 
were moving along very slowly, as if as pa 
put it they were "dead beat." 

" It looks," said ma softly, " like a funeral." 

" No, it don't nuther, ma," pa answered 
sharply. " It don't look nothing like a funeral. 
It looks like a family moving." 

" It's a mighty large family then, Thomas." 

" Maybe it's folks going down to work in the 
cotton mill at Lee," Jim suggested. " I heard 
Rath Rutherford saying there was agents going 
all through the mountains, asking folks to go 
down and work." 

" Yes, folks with children," snapped Pa Me- 



THE McBIRNEYS 17 

Birney. " That's the kind they want, and that's 
the kind that'll go folks that can get their 
boys and girls in the mill and make 'em work 
for 'em. I'd see myself lying down and letting 
my children put food in my mouth!" 

" Well, as near as I can make out," said Mary 
McBirney, " there's only two children in that 
company. All the rest is grown folks." 

The three wagons with their sagging cloth 
tops, swung around the next curve and turned 
toward the McBirney cabin. The horses walked 
with drooping heads; the people dragged their 
feet. Pa went forward to meet them, and close 
behind him, trying hard to see and not to be 
seen, went Jim. Ma McBirney went back and 
sat on a chair in the doorway, something as a 
queen might go back and sit on her throne. 

" Howdy," said pa. 

" Howdy," responded the man who led the 
first pair of horses. 

Pa asked no questions that would not have 
been polite according to his idea. He seemed 
not to look at the tired horses or the still more 
weary men and women, or at the wagons with 
their queer load. All he said was: 

" There's a good spring of water over yon, if 



i 8 AZALEA 

so be you're wanting water; and this here bench 
is a good one to rest on before going on down 
the mountain." 

By " bench " he meant, of course, the level 
bit of land on the mountain side. 

Jim knew that his father was simply quiver- 
ing inside, just as he was himself, to know what 
those people were doing and what they were 
carrying in their wagons. 

The man looked at pa and nodded. 

" We're about tuckered out," he admitted. 

" Come far? " asked pa. It hurt his pride to 
ask the question, but he had to do it. The man 
looked at pa impatiently. 

" Why, we're always on the road," he said. 
" We've got a show here." 

A show! Jim felt something running up his 
spine something that felt as cold and swift 
as a lizard. It was really a thrill of excitement, 
but Jim was afraid it was some sort of sickness. 
He was not used to the feeling. 

The queer procession came to a stop in the 
McBirney clearing. There were three covered 
wagons, six thin horses, five men, two women, 
a boy and a girl. All were walking. The man 
to whom pa had spoken was pale, fat and tired 



THE McBIRNEYS 19 

looking, and while pa was looking him over in 
his quiet way the man took off his hat and 
wiped the moisture from his head. 

"We're out of luck," he said. "There's a 
dying woman in that last wagon the smartest 
performer of the bunch. Sing or dance or any- 
thing. That's her girl there." He pointed to a 
slender girl of about Jim's own age, who stood 
staring off into the valley, though Jim, who had 
seen that same sort of a look in his mother's 
face, knew she wasn't really seeing it. She 
wasn't seeing anything, he decided. 

" Sho! " murmured Pa McBirney. " Dying? 
Are you sure? " 

The man thwacked a huge horsefly on his 
horse's flank. 

" Sure," said he. 

One of the women asked pa if they might 
cook their breakfast in the open " rock " fire- 
place that stood there in the yard. 

" Yes, ma'am," said pa quickly. And then 
he called : " Here, ma, these folks want to cook 
their breakfast here a-way. And they say 
there's a mighty sick woman in that tent-wagon 
yon." 

Mary McBirney, whose shyness had kept her 



20 AZALEA 

sitting as still as if she were under some spell, 
got up at once when she heard this, and came 
forward. She nodded to the men and women 
without really looking at them, because that was 
her way with strangers. 

"Where's the sick woman, please?" she 
asked in her soft voice. The girl who had stood 
looking at the valley turned at this. 

" I'll show you, please ma'am," she said, and 
her voice sounded so tired that it made a lump 
come in Jim's throat. 

Mary McBirney reached down and took the 
girl's thin brown hand in her own, and the two 
went on to the wagon, the others watching them. 
They saw her lean forward .and look in the 
wagon, and then draw back with a startled face. 

"Why, it's over!" she called. "Pa! Pa! 
The poor soul's gone!" 

At that the other women ran toward her. 

" Why, she was breathing a mile or two 
back," the one they called Betty said. " I 
looked in at her and gave her a drink." 

" We didn't stay in the wagon because it shut 
out the air," explained the other. " Zalie here, 
wanted to stay with her mamma, but we coaxed 



THE McBIRNEYS 21 

her not to, for the poor thing needed all the air 
she could get." 

But the girl was in the wagon now, letting 
her tears rain on the face of the only one in all 
the world she ever had called her own. 

Betty Bowen began to call to her to come out, 
but Ma McBirney said: "Just let her cry! 
Poor little thing she's just got to cry." 

Betty Bowen, and her friend Susan Hetter, 
began to sniffle a little too, but Mary McBirney 
looking at them made up her mind that they 
were not caring very much. They looked too 
dragged out to care about anything. The dust 
of the road seemed to have got into their very 
skin ; they looked as if they never had slept in a 
proper bed or dressed in a proper room; and 
though Mrs. McBirney did not like them, and 
could hardly keep from drawing away from 
them, she felt very sorry for them too. 

"Where's the girl's pa?" she asked them. 

" We don't know," Betty Bowen said. " Mrs. 
Knox that's the dead woman, ma'am never 
said anything about him." 

"Ain't she got no kin?" asked ma gently. 

" None that we know of, ma'am." 

Jim stood looking on, his lips pressed hard 



22 AZALEA 

together. The girl's mother was dead. Her 
mother 'was dead! Why, that must be like 
having the world come to an end, pretty near. 
If your mother was dead, it didn't matter if 
if you did belong to a show. But that boy 
over there, his mother wasn't dead, and yet he 
acted as " dumb " as a snail. Jim felt that if 
he, himself, belonged to a show he'd be yelling 
and jumping and having a whopping time. 
Every spare minute he'd be practicing up in his 
part. But these folks acted as if they hardly 
had life enough to cross the yard; and as for 
the horses, their heads hung down and their 
bones stuck out as if they were ready for the 
buzzards to pick. Jim hated to have that girl 
crying like that. There was no fun in having 
a show in your yard when a girl was making 
such a noise. He tried to forget about it, and 
walked around looking in the wagons not the 
wagon where the girl was, but the others - 
hoping to find some wild animals in cages. But 
the only wild animals he saw were made out of 
wood. 

" What's them for? " he asked one of the men, 
pointing to a wooden zebra and a somewhat 
faded tiger. 



THE McBIRNEYS 23 

" For the merry-go-round," said the man. 
" Ever see one? " Jim shook his head, and the 
man tried to tell him what a merry-go-round 
was like. Jim was disgusted to think how long 
he had lived without seeing anything like that. 

" I should think," he said to the man, " that 
this here bench would be a good place to set up 
your show." 

"Oh, fine!" answered the man with a dis- 
agreeable laugh. " Then all the jack rabbits 
and spit cats in the whole neighborhood could 
come, couldn't they? " 

" If you'd set it up, please sir," said Jim, " I'd 
run all over the mountain in no time, telling the 
folks about it. There's lots of folks on this 
mountain more'n you'd think. They'd pay 
you money." 

But the head man, Sisson, had come up and 
begun talking about the dead woman. 

" I'm just figuring," he said, " whether to 
take her down to a burying ground in the next 
town, or to make a grave up here." 

Just then Jim's father came up. 

" My wife says for you-all to leave that poor 
woman right up here," he said. " She can be 
buried out there by that Pride of India tree 



24 AZALEA 

beside our little girl, and ma will keep every- 
thing looking fine plant roses, you know, and 
all that." 

The men didn't seem to care much about 
roses. 

"Thanks," said Sisson shortly; " that'll be all 
right." 

"How could it be 'all right'?" Jim won- 
dered. Now that he had stopped talking about 
the show he could hear that girl again, and it 
made him feel very, very queer. The lump 
came back in his throat and things sort of shook 
before his eyes. He felt as if something in him 
was going to burst. And just then some one 
touched him on the shoulder. He looked up 
and saw his mother standing there. Her face 
seemed unusually thin and white and her eyes 
very large, and there was something so kind- 
so terribly, heart-breakingly kind in them, 
that the something in him did burst, and he 
found himself crying in his mother's dress. 

" I reckon if you feel as sorry as that for the 
poor girl, you'll like to do something to help." 

Jim nodded, not being able to speak. 

" Well, you get a cup of fresh milk and carry 
it to my bedroom. I'm going to get the poor 
child in there and coax her to lie down." 



THE McBIRNEYS 25 

Jim ran to the spring house tormented all 
the while with those sobs in his throat and 
filled the tall horn cup with milk. When he 
carried it into his mother's room he found the 
girl lying on the bed, with Ma McBirney bath- 
ing her face and talking to her softly. 

" I'm unplaitingyour hair, dear," she was say- 
ing in a voice so soft that it made Jim think of 
the pigeons out at the barn, " and I'm going 
to smooth it. You don't mind, do you?" 

" No'm," said the girl brokenly. 

" And here's the milk, all nice and cold. If 
it would please you to drink a little of that! " 

She half-lifted the little figure in her arms 
and held her so while the girl let the cool milk 
run down her hot throat. Jim noticed that when 
she lay down again, she took the edge of ma's 
apron between her fingers and held on to it. 
Jim understood why. He felt just like doing 
that himself. 

" My little girl that died," said ma, still in 
that soft, cooing voice, " had yellow hair. Yours 
is brown, but it's just as pretty." 

The girl twisted ma's apron in and out around 
her fingers; she could think of nothing to say. 

" My little Molly's eyes was blue, but yours 
is just the color of Job's tears." 



26 AZALEA 

"Job's tears?" asked the girl. "What are 
they, please ma'am?" 

" You don't know what Job's tears be, honey? 
Why they're the prettiest little things sort of 
beans, they be and folks dries and strings 'em. 
Jimmy, you fetch that string from the bureau." 

Jim brought the string of softly polished gray 
beadlike things, and Ma McBirney slipped 
them softly over the girl's head. 

" They just match your eyes, honey. You 
must wear them to remember me by! " 

" Thank you, ma'am. But I'll remember you 
anyway. You'll be taking care of mamma for 



me." 



" Now here, honey, don't you start crying 
again ! You can do all the crying you want by 
and by. But now I want you to listen to me. 
What call have you got to go on with them 
show people? " 

"What else can I do, ma'am? They're all 
the people I know." 

" What do you do in the show? " 

" Not much now since my pony died. I used 
to ride him, ma'am. Now I sell things pea- 
nuts or pictures or songs or anything." 

A wave of scarlet went over her face, and 



THE McBIRNEYS 27 

Jim knew she hated being with the show and he 
wondered why. He would have liked to do that 
kind of thing very well. 

" Tell me I won't tell no one be they 
good to you?" asked ma. 

The girl turned her tear-darkened eyes on 
her. 

"Oh, I don't know I don't know!" she 
broke out. "Oh, I'm so tired! What shall I 
do? What shall I do?" 

Ma McBirney stooped down and put both 
arms tight about the girl's shaking form. 

" I reckon you'd better stay right here with 
me," she said. " I'm needing a little girl terri- 
ble; and you've lost your ma. You stay right 
here with me. What do you say to that? " 

The girl sat up in bed and looked straight 
into Ma McBirney's eyes. 

"They'd never let me!" she cried. 

" Now maybe they would, dear. Would you 
like it?" 

"Oh!" sighed the girl; "Oh, ma'am!" 

" What was that name I heard them calling 
you?" 

" Zalie, ma'am. My name is Azalea." 



CHAPTER II 

NEW FRIENDS 

How does news spread on the mountain side? 
Who carried the word to the little lonely cabins 
on the wide sides of old Tennyson mountain that 
there were " things going on " at the Mc- 
Birney's? Did the buzzards wing the message 
or the bald-headed eagle that kept eyrie in 
the blasted Norway pine above the ginseng lot? 
Or the martins that made their home in the dried 
gourds that had been swung for them on the 
high crosstrees before the McBirney's door? 

However that may be, by noon the people be- 
gan to arrive. Some of them rode their mules 
or horses; some drove in their carts or wagons; 
but the greater number came on foot, slipping 
along the steep paths on the pine needles, or 
leaping among the rocks, sure of foot, long of 
limb, and caring nothing for distance. 

They were quiet folk with soft voices and 
with their hearts in the right place. So, though 
they wanted as much as if they had been chiL 

28 



NEW FRIENDS 29 

dren, to see the merry-go-round and all the rest 
of the show, they would not so much as hint at 
it because of the dead woman who lay all clean 
and decent on the ironing board laid across two 
sawhorses, there in the open room between the 
bedroom and the kitchen, in Mary McBirney's 
house. Over her a fresh sheet fell. On her 
bosom lay branches of wild azalea, for her name, 
too, had been Azalea. 

The mistress of the house went about with a 
strange look on her face. She listened to all 
that was said to her, but she seemed not really 
to hear. 

" Your ma hadn't ought to be seeing all these 
folks and going through this experience," 
Thomas McBirney said to his boy Jim. " It's 
getting on her mind." 

" It's that there girl," Jim whispered. " I 
heard her asking her if she didn't want to live 
here with us." 

" Sho ! " said pa. " That's how the land lays ! 
And what did the little girl say? " 

" We might go for some fresh water to the 
spring," said Jim, " and then we can talk." 

So these two good friends set off together, and 



30 AZALEA 

Jim told his father all that he had heard his 
mother and Azalea say to each other. 

" There's a good deal of whiskey being passed 
around, on the quiet among them show folks," 
said pa. " It ain't only the men that's taking it 
neither. I hold with your ma that we've got a 
call to see to that girl. What if our Molly had 
been left like that and she'd fallen to the care 
of them that was evil in their ways, and been let 
go to destruction by Christians that might have 
saved her and wouldn't on account of blind self- 
seeking? " 

On their way back from the spring they saw 
old Elder Mills coming along on his tall mule. 
Some one had summoned him to preach the 
funeral sermon. Jim knew just how he would 
do, shouting out in his wild singsong till the 
mountains echoed, and rilling the people 
with fear. He looked like a giant as he rode 
toward them, his thick, curling iron-gray hair 
standing out all over his head and his dark eyes 
burning like fires in their deep sockets. 

"Look a-here, Elder," Pa McBirney said; 
" before we get up where the folks is, I've a 
request to make of you. You size up them there 



NEW FRIENDS 31 

show people. You've had experience and you 
know the good from the bad." 

"Judge not that ye be not judged!" roared 
the elder. " It is the Lord's business to divide 
the sheep from the goats." 

" Maybe, maybe, Elder," said pa soothingly. 
" But you're something of a hand at it yourself. 
And I'm asking you to see my wife in private. 
She's got something on her mind, Elder, and 
she needs your help." 

"All right, brother McBirney," the elder 
agreed. " Anything I can do for sister Mc- 
Birney, it gives me pleasure to do, sir, for a 
better woman I never did know, and I've known 
a power of good ones in my time." 

Half an hour after they had got back to the 
clearing, Jimmy, who was standing around wait- 
ing for a chance to get acquainted with the boy 
who had come with the show people, heard his 
father and mother and Elder Mills bidding the 
show people to come into the kitchen. He 
knew well enough what they were going to talk 
about. His pa and ma were going to ask that 
poor girl of them. The mountain people who 
had gathered, and who were making themselves 
at home there in the clearing, seemed to guess 



32 AZALEA 

what was in the wind. Jim heard his mother's 
friend, Mrs. Leiter saying: " It would be the 
best thing that could come to the child. Mrs. 
McBirney would be a real mother to her; and 
like as not the child would put heart into Mrs. 
McBirney. She ain't never been herself a min- 
ute since Molly was took. To my seeing, them 
show folks ain't the kind to have charge of a 
child particularly not a nice little girl like 
that one." 

By and by all of those who had been in the 
kitchen came out, and Jim could see from the 
way they looked that they hadn't been able to 
agree. His mother's face was whiter and more 
strained than ever; and the light in the old 
elder's eyes was really fierce. The show people 
seemed out of humor and they went off by them- 
selves and began cooking their dinner, having 
nothing to do with the mountain folks. Jim had 
to help his mother with her dinner then. She 
was asking the neighbors to share with her, and 
the women all turned in to pare potatoes and 
mix up corn bread and beat up eggs. There 
was a busy hour or two, and then after all had 
eaten, a sort of quiet settled on the gathering. 
They were waiting for the sun to slide a little 



NEW FRIENDS 33 

further over the mountain, for the day was a 
very hot one for May. It gave Jim a chance to 
slip around from place to place, silent as a lizard 
and saying nothing. He wanted to get ac- 
quainted with the show boy, and after what 
seemed a long time, he found a chance to speak 
to him. 

" If you want to come with me," he said in his 
drawling, pleasant mountain voice, " I'll show 
you my mill wheel." 

" Did you make it? " demanded the boy. He 
was a queer, black little creature, who looked 
as if he had been carved out of a nut. His arms 
were too long for his body, but they were so 
strong that he could " chin " himself on the low 
decreasing of the shed without any trouble 
whatever. Jim had already discovered that. 
He had seen the boy hanging out on a long tree 
limb and dropping like a cat. All of his ways 
were quick and sharp, and he had a sly look like 
that of a half-fed hound. Jim never had seen a 
boy like this and he felt shy with him. But for 
all of that, he was determined to know him. 

" 'Deed and I made the wheel," he said to the 
boy. " It runs right smart, too." 

" How far away is it? " 



34 



AZALEA 



" Just down by the second waterfall. We 
don't need to go 'round by the road. We can 
drop right down the face of the rocks." 

" All right," said the boy. 

So they slid down the sheer drop of the rocks 
till they came to a place where the mountain 
stream widened out into a tiny pool, and then, 
forced once more into a trough-like gorge, 
poured on over the face of the rocks. Here Jim 
had made a mill wheel on which he had worked 
many a day. The show boy looked at it 
admiringly. 

" It's a right smart wheel," he admitted. He 
stopped it with one of his dark, slender fingers, 
and then started it again, and Jim's tongue 
loosened, and he told him about all the other 
wheels he had made, and why this was better 
than any of the others. 

After a time they stuck their hot, dusty toes 
in the pool and sat there watching the world. 
The sun and shadow raced over the valley be- 
low; a hawk wheeled above their heads; little 
creatures danced over the face of the pool. 

"What's your name, please?" asked Jim. 

" Hi Kitchell." 

" Mine's Jim McBirney." 



NEW FRIENDS 35 

" I know that already." 

" Are your folks with the show." 

" Sisson, he's my uncle. He runs the show." 

" Do you do tricks." 

" Yes, lots of 'em. And I do chores do 
more chores than tricks." 

" Do you get paid? " 

" Not regular. I get my board and keep. I 
wish I could stay home with ma, and get some 
work to do in town. There's four of us, and 
pa's dead, so my uncle, he said he'd take me off 
ma's hands." 

" I'd like to go with a show." 

"Would you?" cried the other. His nutlike 
face seemed to grow old, and he looked at Jim 
from under his long lashes. " Would you like 
sleeping out in the rain, picking up meals here 
and there, and going on day after day, no mat- 
ter how you feel? If the old folks take the 
notion, that's what happens to a fella. And then 
the being funny, that's the worst. I hate to be 
funny just because folks have paid to see me 
that a-way." 

" That girl, is she funny? " 

" Funny? " The dark boy puzzled over this 
quite a while. " I don't know about funny. 



36 AZALEA 

She's queer! Her ma was queer too. Not a 
bit like the other women. She was good to me, 
and taught me out of books and talked to me 
about my manners. And she could make the 
people listen when she sang or danced, you bet! " 

" Does that girl like the show? " 

" No, I reckon not. It's no place for a nice 
girl to be. But they'll keep her. The people 
just clap and clap when she does things, she's so 
'cute, someway. Those other women, they're no 
good. It would make you sick to see them try- 
ing to be funny. And they're always wanting 
everybody to wait on 'em. I tell you I'm tired 
of 'em, and so's Zalie, I expect. She'll just be 
a slave to them, that's what she'll be, and she'll 
never get a good word out of 'em neither. I 
wisht she could stay here with your ma. If she 
could, then I'd clear out run away and get a 
place in a mill or somewhere. I tell you, I 
don't like drinking and roaming. It's too much 
like being a tramp. Good folks like your pa 
and ma don't think nothing of us, I can see 
that. And I--I don't like it neither." 

He wrinkled up his narrow forehead in a 
heavy frown, and Jim frowned back as he tried 
to see things the way the boy was seeing them. 



NEW FRIENDS 37 

He thought the boy very clever, and he knew 
that what he said was true about the difference 
between people like his father and mother, and 
the people like Sisson and his companions. 

His mind seemed to go on sudden little jour- 
neys, and to show him pictures of the wander- 
ing life Hi described, and of his own safe home 
life. Then the faces and the language of those 
men and women with the show helped him to 
understand. He began to feel very sorry for Hi. 

" I know a man Rath Rutherford his name 
is who's going around the mountain getting 
folks to go down and work in the cotton mills 
at Lee," he said after a time. " He'd take me 
if my folks would let me go, and I reckon he'd 
take you if you wanted." 

" I never could get away from my uncle 
unless I ran away." 

" And hid," suggested Jim. 

" There ain't nobody to stand by me." 
'Yes there is too! I'll stand by you sure 
I will." 

" I ran away once and got caught and lam- 
basted for it." 

" You wouldn't get caught if I hid you," de- 
clared Jim. " Besides, you and me could fight." 



38 AZALEA 

They fell to planning what they would do if 
they were hidden and the people came to get 
them, and they had to fight; or what would hap- 
pen if they came across a wildcat or a rattle- 
snake. They got very well acquainted, and were 
almost ready to start off together to " take care 
of themselves," as Hi put it, when a horn was 
blown from somewhere far above their heads. 

" That's for me," cried Jim. " Come, we 
must go," and forgetting all about his plan for 
running away, he began scrambling up the rocks 
toward home. 

He was really astonished to find that the after- 
noon had passed and that the people were cook- 
ing supper within and without the house, and 
he learned that Elder Mills had preached the 
funeral sermon for " poor Mis' Knox " and that 
there was a fresh mound of earth beside Molly's 
little grave. 

A wonderful golden light lay across the 
higher reaches of the mountains, and below, the 
valley rested in deep purple shadow. The mar- 
tins were snug in their hanging gourds in the 
crosstrees, and Jim could hear them making lit- 
tle sleepy noises. It seemed so sweet there at 
home that he couldn't bear to think of Hi going 



NEW FRIENDS 39 

on, and when he heard the boy's uncle swearing 
at him because he had left some chores undone, 
Jim hated Sisson. He thought what fun he and 
Hi could have if they were allowed to prowl 
about and cook their supper together. Jim 
knew how to build a fire, and how to put it out. 
His father had taught him to take care of the 
woods and to keep them from catching fire. 
Now he came to think of it, he knew a great 
many things that he would like to teach Hi. But 
he had to go in the house to his supper, and he 
saw Hi being jerked along roughly by the arm 
and heard the angry words his uncle said to him. 

Within the house, Azalea was lying on the 
settle in his mother's clean kitchen. She looked 
small and white-faced, and her large eyes, which 
followed Ma McBirney everywhere, were more 
than ever like " Job's tears." She came to the 
table when Ma McBirney called her, but she 
could eat nothing only drink a little of the 
warm milk, and her hand trembled so that she 
could hardly hold the cup to her lips. 

And neither was Ma McBirney eating. Her 
face was white, too, and her eyes full of trouble. 
Jim knew very well what the matter was. She 
couldn't bear to have this nice little girl go 



40 AZALEA 

in the company of " bad folks " for that was 
how Mary McBirney would call the show peo- 
ple. Almost nothing was said while they were 
at the table, but when supper was over Pa Mc- 
Birney remarked: 

" Me and you'll wash up the dishes to-night, 
Jim." 

"Ain't ma well?" Jim asked. 

" Ma's well enough, but she's got something 
better to do," was all the answer he got. Pa 
began washing the dishes, and Jim wondered 
why it was that he made such a noise about it. 
Jim was told to build up more fire, too, which 
seemed strange, for the room was quite warm 
enough. But he did as he was told. The door 
stood open onto the porch-like room, but no 
one could see in unless he came up on the porch, 
for the solid wooden window shutters had been 
closed. The fire set up a great crackling, and 
that and the rattling of the dishes made it seem 
as if a great deal was going on there in the 
room. But, really, not very much was going on, 
for Ma McBirney and Azalea had slipped out 
of the back door and had not come back again. 
Outside, the voices of the men and the stamping 



NEW FRIENDS 41 

of the horses could be heard, and by and by 
some one called : 

" Hulloa there! Hulloa, I say! " 

"Hulloa!" answered Jim's father. 

" We're ready to go," called the other voice. 

" All right," answered Pa McBirney. " I 
wish you luck." 

One of the show women came up on the 
porch and looked in the door. 

" We'll take that girl off your hands now," 
she said, " and thank you for your trouble." 

" No trouble at all, ma'am," said pa politely. 
" A pleasure, ma'am." 

" If you'll just tell me where she is," Betty 
Bowen went on, looking into the room and see- 
ing no one there but Jim and his father, " I'll 
go for her." 

" It's my impression," said pa slowly, " that 
my wife and the girl walked on down the moun- 
tain a piece. If you'll follow the road maybe 
you'll catch up with 'em. Maybe." 

"See here!" said Mrs. Bowen angrily. "I 
want that there girl and I want her quick." 

" It don't seem as if we did anything very 
quick up here," said pa gently. " It's our way 
to take our time about things." 



42 AZALEA 

The woman looked at pa and her face turned 
red. Then she said some things that Jim won- 
dered at, and after that she went for the men. 
They came storming back, and Sisson wedged 
himself in the doorway. 

" Where's that girl, McBirney? " he de- 
manded. 

" I don't seem to rightly know," said pa, with 
his slowest drawl. 

" Where's your old woman, then? " 

" Well, I don't know that, neither." 

" Where one is, the other is," cried the 
woman. " She's stole that girl, that's what she's 
done." 

" She'd have hard work a-stealing her," ob- 
jected Pa McBirney, " when she don't belong to 



no one." 



" You'll find out whether she belongs to any- 
one or not," Sisson cried, shaking his fist at pa. 
" You can't come it over us that way. We told 
you that you couldn't have the girl and we mean 



it." 



" Well," said pa in his most reasonable voice, 
" I hain't took the girl." 

" Your wife has, and that's the same thing. 



NEW FRIENDS 43 

And you'll have to give her up or there'll be 
trouble." 

" What my wife does and what I do are two 
different things," pa went on teasingly. " I'm 
telling you the truth when I say I don't know 
where them women folks has gone." 

Sisson strode into the room at that, trembling 
with rage, and as he did so, in at the rear door 
of the room lounged William Sabin, one of the 
mountaineers, and behind him Tom Williams 
and after him Dick Bab. Jim thought he saw 
other forms looming up in the darkness without. 

" See here, sonny," whispered Jim's father to 
him, " you just kind o' slip out of that there 
window above the bench till we get this little 
affair settled one way or t'other." And Jim, 
seeing that his father meant to be obeyed, 
jumped on the wooden bench, loosed the catch 
of the board shutter, and crawled out onto the 
pile of saplings that was stacked against the outer 
wall. He could hear his heart beating, and he 
tried not to think what might happen in the next 
few minutes. He had heard of quarrels in 
mountain cabins that ended in a terrible way. 
He wished in the bottom of his heart that those 
show people had never come near them, and 



44 AZALEA 

that his mother had never seen that girl. He 
could hear his father's voice going on in its 
pleasant singsong way. 

" These here friends of mine," he was saying, 
" thought to do a little shooting to-night. We've 
been put about by some spit cats hollering at 
night, and we thought to get after 'em. But you 
mustn't hurry away on that account. There's 
lots of time all the time there is and we'll 
see you down the mountain a piece if you like." 

Jim heard Betty Bowen call: 

" Come along, boys. It ain't worth it," and 
then he saw Sisson and the others backing out 
of the room. They got on their wagons, grumb- 
ling and swearing among themselves, while the 
mountaineers came out and stood watching 
them, the fire gleaming through the door upon 
the guns they had brought to hunt the " spit 
cats." 

" Did I understand you to say that you'd like 
our company for a piece?" drawled Pa Mc- 
Birney as the show people swung their lanterns 
beside their wagons and called to their horses 
to move on. 

" You think you're mighty smart," yelled Sis- 
son. " But you wait! Just you wait! " 



NEW FRIENDS 45 

"Kidnapper!" sneered one of the women. 
" And your woman looked too good to be- 
lieve, she did." 

" There's some mighty sharp turns on the 
road," said pa politely. " And maybe me and 
my friends had best see you on the way. We've 
got some neighbors 'waiting for us a piece on. 
I'd best whistle for 'em, I reckon." 

But if he whistled, it was not heard for the 
noise as the wagons went rattling down the road. 
For a long time Jim could hear the sound of 
the hoofs and the squeak of the breaks and the 
angry voices of the show people. 

Meantime, the mountain men had gone back 
into the kitchen and lighted their pipes. They 
seemed to have but little to say to each other, 
and Jim, peeping in at the door, was startled to 
see each man lift his gun. But his father roared 
at them and they dropped them with smiles. 

" I've got to know where ma is," cried Jim, 
running to his father. " There ain't any harm 
coming to ma, is there? " 

" Not as I know of, son. Your ma's a smart 
woman and a set one. When she wants to do a 
thing she most generally does it." 

"But where is she, dad?" 



46 AZALEA 

" That's what I can't pre-cisely say, son. All 
I know is she didn't mean for to let that purty 
little girl go off with them wildcats. She's set 
her heart on keeping her in Molly's place, and 
we've set our hearts on having her. That's all." 

That was quite all. The mountaineers sat so 
that they faced the two open doors and the one 
open window. They appeared to be enjoying 
themselves after their fashion. Jim looked out 
at the dark mountain side and the dense forest, 
from which a strange whispering as of a thou- 
sand voices seemed to come. He knew that wild 
creatures lived on that mountain, and that terri- 
ble, sudden storms sometimes arose and raged 
over it. He knew, too, how the trails crossed 
and recrossed each other, and how unfamiliar 
they looked in the night. It would be very easy 
for his mother to lose her way, for she kept to 
the house much more than most of the women 
on the mountain. He kept saying to himself 
over and over: " I hope she's safe; I hope she's 
safe." And aloud he said: 

' While we was about it, I wisht we'd a-taken 
that there boy. He was a awful smart boy." 

" Sho! " said pa. " I wisht we had, too." 



CHAPTER III 

IN HIDING 

" It's only a little way farther now, dear. I'm 
sure it's only a little way." 

"A little way to where, please ma'am?" 
Azalea gasped the question. She was spent with 
hard climbing, and her heart pounded in her 
side. The steep path before her was dark and 
rough. There was only the stars and a small 
crescent moon to give them light. 

" I wouldn't dare to carry a lantern not to- 
night," Ma McBirney had explained. " We'll 
have to find our way in the dark this time." 

It seemed to Azalea that it was hours since 
they began " finding their way." They had 
slipped out of the back door of the cabin when 
the people were at their supper, had crouched 
and crept along the path past the spring house 
and taken a trail that ran up to the pine grove. 
From there on they had been winding this way 
and that, always climbing and climbing till the 
pain in the girl's side was almost more than she 

47 



48 AZALEA 

could stand. Ma McBirney seemed about 
ready to drop too. Azalea could hear her breath 
coming almost in sobs. Yet she pushed on, and 
when Azalea begged her to rest she would only 
say: "In a little while, my dear. In just a 
little while." 

It began to thunder far off, and sheets of 
lightning threw a strange pinkish glow over 
their path now and then. 

" Don't you worry none about that there light- 
ning," Ma McBirney said to the girl whose hand 
she held so tight in her own that it hurt. " It 
will swing off around the mountain, like as not. 
Anyway we'll be there before it comes." 

"Where, please ma'am?" asked Azalea 
again. And again Ma McBirney did not an- 
swer, but pressed on along the path. 

She seemed now to be walking on the very 
rim of a great bench, and Azalea couldn't help 
feeling that if the people were looking for them, 
they could see them standing out against the sky 
when the lightning flashed over the mountain. 
Perhaps Ma McBirney feared the same thing. 
At any rate, she stooped over almost double as 
she walked. She could not hold Azalea's hand 
as they crept along this narrow path, but she 



IN HIDING 49 

told the little girl to hold tight to her skirt. So 
they went on in the rising of the wind, their way 
lightened by the increasing flashes of lightning. 
Fortunately, though, they were walking on 
ground that was almost level, and it gave their 
pounding hearts a chance to quiet a little. 

Then, suddenly, Azalea saw looming up be- 
fore her a great mass of rock. 

" Here we are! " cried Mrs. McBirney. She 
began feeling around in the dark, and then, a 
great flash of lightning showed something on 
the rock that was blacker than either the night 
or the stone. 

"Here it is!" she cried. "Here's the way 
in!" And the girl, still holding onto that 
motherly skirt, crept after Mary McBirney 
through an opening in the rock, down three rude 
stairs, along a dark, damp place and through 
another narrower opening. Ma McBirney 
struck a match and lit a little lantern. 

" Well," she said. " Here we are! " 

Azalea looked about her. Their feet rested 
on bare earth, and on every side of them arose 
stone walls. From them hung queer, mouse- 
like creatures and horrid spiders and long 
beetles. Two benches of stone ran along the 



So AZALEA 

side, and a sort of fireplace had been made of 
broken pieces of rock, above which a little crack 
in the roof served as chimney. 

"We ain't the first that has hid here," said 
Mrs. McBirney looking around. " And likely 
we won't be the last. No one but mountain folk 
knows about this place, and they ain't telling. 
Make yourself to home Azalea, for this is where 
we're going to stay till them friends of yours is 
tired of looking for us." 

Azalea drew up nearer to the woman and hid 
her face against her bosom. 

" Why, what's the matter, you little poor 
thing?" cried Mrs. McBirney. "You're not 
minding a few little bats and spiders, be you? 
I'll get them out in no time." 

" No, no! " almost shrieked the girl. " Don't 
touch them, please! They'll fall down on us!" 

" Why, what's this I hear? " demanded ma. 
" A girl that's been plumb up against all kinds 
of trouble, getting scared at a few little beasties! 
You ain't seeming no ways brave to me." 

"But thousands of yellow spiders, ma'am! 
And hundreds of bats! All above our heads, 
too. I hate it! I just hate it." 

" If it wasn't for the storm, dear, we'd lie on 



IN HIDING 51 

the ground outside," said Mrs. McBirney. 
" But there, there 1 It's come, you see. We've 
got to stay here." 

As she spoke the wild downpour of the rain 
could be heard, sweeping along over the moun- 
tain, and the next instant it was roaring about 
them. They could feel the spray of it dashing 
in from the outer chamber and here and there 
through crevices in the rock above them. They 
seemed terribly alone there on that mountain 
top in their resounding cavern, and Ma Mc- 
'Birney was not surprised that the girl who had 
gone through such fearful experiences that day 
should throw herself into her arms and weep. 
Mary McBirney held her close and soothed her 
with soft pattings and caresses. She couldn't 
make her voice heard above the storm, but she 
knew there were other things besides words with 
which she could comfort the poor child. They 
were both very tired. Their limbs trembled 
from the long, hard climb and from the dread 
of the storm, and when Ma McBirney spread 
her great circular cape on the ground they were 
glad enough to lie down on it. They covered 
themselves with it too even their heads, and 






52 AZALEA 

after a little while, with the storm still bellow- 
ing without, they fell asleep. 

Jim and his father heard the uproar and 
turned in their beds and shivered. In fact, Jim 
couldn't stand it in bed alone, but crept into his 
father's room. 

" You reckon ma's hid somewhere out of 
this? " Jim asked. 

" Sure! " cried pa, drawing Jim into bed be- 
side him. " Sure she is. Her and that there girl 
is as dry as a bone somewhere, sitting laughing 
at all this fuss of rain." But when Jim had 
fallen asleep, soothed by these words, Pa Mc- 
Birney got up and walked the floor until morn- 
ing. Then he cooked Jim's breakfast and his 
own, and packed a basket with food. 

" We-all will be taking a little stroll," he said. 
" Just hand me down my rifle, sonny. Maybe 
we might see something we'd like for dinner on 
the way." 

He went out of the back door, bidding Jim 
keep close beside him, and looked around for 
quite a while before starting on the up trail; 
and then he kept away from the wood trail and 
took the one that led up the face of the rocks - 
one which no one but a mountaineer could find 



IN HIDING 53 

or follow. His footsteps appeared on the 
freshly-washed earth only as far as the spring. 
From there on, there was no trace of him and 
his boy, and anyone who came looking for them 
would indeed have hard work to follow. 

" There was talk of them show folks setting 
up the merry-go-round and all the rest of the 
contraptions down there at Lee to-day," said pa. 
" I only hope they'll do it and not go turning 
their attention to things that don't concern them." 

Once or twice as Jim and his father came out 
upon some rocky ledge of the mountain the boy 
peered down into the valley to see if he could 
catch sight of tents or wagons, but all below them 
was wrapped in a wonderful lilac mist. And 
anyway, he had not much time to give to these 
matters. He was thinking of where his mother 
would be found, and wondering how it was that 
his father kept such a sure course. Not an idea 
of where his mother could be entered the boy's 
head, but he knew there were secret hiding 
places on the mountains, of which children were 
not told, and he was right in thinking that his 
mother had gone to one of these. 

After a long time he said: 

"Where you heading for, pa?" 



54 AZALEA 

" Well," said pa, " your ma thought best not 
to tell me where she was going. She wanted me 
to speak up truthful and say I didn't know her 
whereabouts. But it wouldn't take many guesses 
for me to locate her in Conscript Den." 

"What's that?" asked Jim, staring at his 
father with open eyes and mouth. 

"Well, that's a place that all the old folks 
about here knows of very well. It's been used 
by a good many one time and another, but the 
first time I know of its being used was when old 
Colonel Atherton tried to conscript a lot of 
young men down there in Lee, to force 'em to 
join the Southern army in 1862. Some of these 
here men was for the Union and they didn't take 
to the idea of fighting with the South. Any- 
way, I don't think they was much interested 
either way. They just wanted to be left alone 
to work their little farms and be let mind their 
own business. But they didn't believe in slavery. 
It wasn't in 'em to do that. They was liberty 
loving people, and if anything, a little too inde- 
pendent in their ways for their own good, 
maybe." 

" Think so? " said Jim. He had his own ideas 
about independence. 



IN HIDING 55 

" So twenty young men that was conscripted 
run up here and hid, and slipped down the 
mountain nights and got food; and they picked 
berries and stoned rabbits and I don't know 
what all. But even so they didn't have much 
and they was almost skin and bone when the 
searchin' party found them." 

" And when they found 'em, what did they 
do?" 

Pa seemed not to have heard and walked on 
even faster than he had been walking, which was 
quite unnecessary, for though Jim could run 
along like a squirrel, he was almost out of breath 
trying to keep up with his father. Now, how- 
ever, he made a dash and caught at his father's 
suspender. 

" And what did they do with 'em dad? " 

" They took 'em down to Lee, Jim, and stood 
'em up in the public square them twenty 
young chaps, some of 'em not more than eigh- 
teen and their old neighbors faced up there 
in double file and shot 'em down." 

"What!" cried Jim. 

" Had to, boy. Had to! Military law. The 
old colonel made 'em." 

"Oh!" 



56 AZALEA 

" But that finished him. He lived down there 
in that big shut-up place they call The Shoals. 
You know it. It ain't been opened in your day, 
but it's a grand old house. Well, after the old 
colonel had made the people do the thing I 
told you about, the countryside was up and 
buzzing like a nest of hornets, and old colonel, 
he had to black his face and put on women's 
clothes and hike out. And his wife went back 
to Alabama where she come from, and nobody 
heard of the Athertons any more." 

" And are there any folks living at Lee now 
that did the shooting? " 

Pa McBirney stopped to get his breath, and 
he looked about him at the lovely day, at the 
shining woods and the down-plunging stream. 
Then he dropped on a convenient rock and 
motioned Jim to sit beside him. 

" I'm a-going to tell you something, Jim," he 
said, " that I want you to remember. Us moun- 
tain folks has got a bad name in some ways. 
Folks say we're shiftless some of us and re- 
vengeful. But do you know what the people 
down at Lee done after old Colonel Atherton 
was run out? They got together and they took 
an oath never, no matter what come, to carry on 



IN HIDING 57 

the story of that dreadful thing. They said they 
wouldn't speak of it nor hand it on to their chil- 
dren, nor wage war nor nurse hard feelings. So 
who done the shooting and who was shot is 
something I don't know and don't want to know. 
My father knew, and what he knew turned him 
old before his time. And I remember hearing 
about an older brother, and never was I told 
about his end. So maybe your own uncle was 
one of them poor martyrs. But it don't matter 
now. It's all healed up, like the hole the fire 
burned in that there chestnut. It's healed up in 
brotherly love, and if you was to go to Lee and 
ask any questions about that there rumpus, you'd 
get your trouble for your pains. They'd pre- 
tend they didn't know what you was talking 
about. And the young people, they don't know 
any more about it than just that it happened, 
and they've married and intermarried, till them 
that was forced to be slayers and them that was 
slain have their names passed on in the same 
family. And I'm proud of it, Jim, and want 
you to know it, and to say to folks, when they 
hold out that we're a quarrelsome people, that 
we're a forgiving people too." 

Jim didn't answer. He sat close beside his 



58 AZALEA 

father for a while, listening to the gentle sounds 
of the forest and the falling water. And then 
the two got up and went on. 

At length, amid a fine grove of chestnuts, Jim 
beheld the same pile of rocks that had loomed 
up before the tired eyes of Azalea the night be- 
fore, and he followed his father around into a 
cranny of them and saw the same doorway she 
had seen. 

" Mary," called pa softly. " Mary! Be you 
there!" 

For a moment there was no answer, and then, 
as he called again, a frightened voice replied : 

" Is it you, Tom? Have you got a light? 
My, it's dark here, and we've been sleeping till 



now." 



Jim could hardly keep from whooping with 
delight, and the next moment he and his father 
had crept through the first half-open chamber, 
into the dark inner one, where ma and Azalea 
sat up on the big coat, rubbing their eyes and 
blinking at the light from the lantern which 
ma had blown out as they lay down to rest the 
night before, and which pa had just relighted. 

Jim never forgot the strange look of every- 
thing: of the cave with its rough walls, of the 



IN HIDING 59 

bats and spiders and beetles, of his mother, sit- 
ting there on the ground, all bewildered and 
strange-looking, and of the girl who clung to 
her and shuddered. 

" Get out of here! Get out of here! " called 
Pa McBirney cheerily. " It's a fine day out- 
side." And he helped his wife and Azalea to 
their feet and led them outside. 

"Best not build a fire," he said. "We'll 
have to lie low a day or two till them show 
folks get out of the way. I cooked the bacon 
before I come, and I brought the coffee in a 
pail. It was hot when I started, but I reckon 
it's cold enough now. But here's plenty of bis- 
cuit, and a jar of gooseberry jam, and some of 
them star cookies and some hard-boiled eggs 
and a few radishes and some cold potatoes - 

"My goodness, Thomas!" cried his wife. 
" Did you think we had turned into wolves be- 
cause we was living in a den?" 

" Well you see, Mary, this here will have 
to last you all of to-day and perhaps a part of 
to-morrow. There's no telling just what will 
happen. I might be penned up down there, 
with men watching me, and then you'd want 
a little stock of stuff laid by." 



60 AZALEA 

Jim had moved over toward Azalea, and now 
the two stood side by side staring at the older 
people. Pa might be penned up, and ma, who 
was hiding in a den, might go hungry! Did 
such things really happen? Jim turned and 
gazed at the girl, and he couldn't help thinking 
how pretty she was, with her oval face and her 
great gray eyes and her long braids of brown 
hair. She looked as if she could run as well as 
a boy and ride a horse as well, or maybe better. 
Suddenly an idea came to him. 

"Say!" he burst out. "You're glad you're 
with us, ain't you? You don't wish you'd gone 
on with them other folks? " 

" Glad ! " said the girl. " Of course I'm glad. 
I never want to see them again never, never! ' ? 
Her gray eyes turned almost black, and she 
straightened her thin little figure till, in Jim's 
words, she was like a ramrod. 

" Peter! " thought Jim. " I wouldn't like to 
get her mad at me." She wouldn't be a good 
one to tease, Jim made up his mind. Jim saw 
that his mother was watching the girl, too, and 
he knew how his mother hated anything like 
bad temper and he wondered if she would like 



IN HIDING 61 

Azalea as well when she saw that she could be 
" peppery." But all she said was : 

" Azalea, I know a place where there's a 
spring of water. Pa's brought us a towel and 
some soap and a comb. We'll go down to the 
spring and make ready for breakfast." So the 
two went off together, and Jim and his father 
spread the breakfast out on a sort of table-rock. 

Then they sat down to their breakfast, and 
whether it was the strangeness of the night and 
the wildness of the place and the beauty of the 
morning, or whether it was fun in its way, being 
outlaws and in hiding, who can say? But as 
the meal went on they began to laugh and talk 
as they seldom did even when there was com- 
pany; and Azalea couldn't keep from laughing 
either. There was something hushed and sad 
about her face, and when she spoke, her voice 
had a break in it, for her terrible sorrow lay 
heavily upon her heart. Yet, as she had said to 
Ma McBirney the night before, she had known 
for a long time that her mother could not live, 
and she had thought how, after her mother was 
gone, she herself must go on, taking the rough 
treatment the show men had given her, and rid- 
ing bareback on those poor thin horses, and 



6z AZALEA 

doing tricks for people who called out horrible 
things to her. Now she felt safe, and even there 
in that wild place, more at home perhaps than 
she ever had felt before in her life. 

After a time Jim and his father went away, 
but not before they had gone in the cave and 
killed or driven out every creature in it. They 
made a sort of broom right on the spot before 
Azalea's astonished eyes, and brushed the place 
and cleaned it; and pa pried back a big stone on 
top and let the sunlight in. And then he asked 
ma how she was going to put in her time. 

"Just sitting still," said ma. 

" I never saw you sit still yet, Mary," said 
pa. " I don't believe you can do it." 

" Yes I can, Thomas. Don't you worry. I 
can sit and sit and I'm going to. It's years since 
I've had a quiet spell and it looks like this was 
my time to take it." 

" Seeing's believing," said pa. And laughing 
and telling ma not to worry about anything, he 
and Jim turned down the trail. 

" Let's get nearer the waterfall," said ma to 
Azalea. So they went to a place where a great 
flat rock ran out into the mountain stream, and 
here they sat with the water tossing and leaping 



IN HIDING 63 

past them and hurling itself over the side of the 
mountain. Ma lay down and put her hands 
under her head and looked straight up through 
the branches of an overhanging beech, into the 
soft blue sky. And Azalea pillowed her head 
on her arm and lay there too. A long time 
passed and neither spoke. It was enough to 
listen to the voices of the mountain, to watch 
the sailing of the clouds and the winging of the 
birds. But after a time ma reached out and 
touched Azalea gently. 

"Little girl," she said, "little daughter!" 

"Ma'am?" 

" I've been a-thinking and a-thinking, and it 
seems to me it's a queer world." 

" Yes'm, it is," said Azalea as if she too had 
settled that fact in her mind. 

" Some things that seem wrong is right, and 
some that everybody or almost everybody 
says is right, is really, when you come down to 
it, plumb wrong." 

" I reckon that's so, ma'am." 

"Now, me taking you in the way I did 
grabbing you away from the folks you'd known 
and been with that might look wrong. But it 



64 AZALEA 

ain't, Azalea, it aint! You want to know how 
I know it ain't wrong? " 

" If you please, ma'am." 

" Well, first of all I reasoned it out. You 
was better in a house than on the road. You 
was better living where you could go to school 
than where you'd slave for people who'd give 
you no education. You was better with people 
who'd take you to church and read the Script- 
ures to you than with people who'd swear and 
curse and drink and gamble. And most of all, 
you was better with them that would love and 
cherish you than with them that would just use 
you, and perhaps bring you to some harm and 
turn you off when they got through with you." 

"Oh, yes'm! I know, ma'am. I'm thank- 
ful" ' 

" I don't want you bothering to be thankful, 
Azalea. I just want you to be loving. But I 
haven't said what I wanted to say. It ain't 
reason that tells me I've done right. It's some- 
thing else." 

There was a little pause, and then she went 
on: 

" It's something I wouldn't like to speak of to 
everyone, Azalea. But you see, you're going to 



IN HIDING 65 

take Molly's place with me, and I'm going to 
begin right away treating you as if you was 
her." 

" Thank you, ma'am." 

"Well, now this thing it's like a little bird 
singing in my heart. Ever since I was a little 
girl, times would come when that little bird 
would begin singing. Maybe 'twould be a 
pretty day and me down washing clothes at the 
spring; maybe 'twould be something preacher 
said in church; maybe 'twould be Jimmy shout- 
ing and hollering out in the woods, or his pa 
coming up the trail and letting out a yell to tell 
me he was on the way. But when the bird sang 
best, dear, was when I'd done something that 
I knew I ought to do and that it was hard to do. 
Now it was hard for me to take you away from 
those folks, for I don't like to run counter to no 
one. I like friends and I hate foes, and I had to 
make foes of them people. But they wouldn't 
listen to what was right and reasonable, and I 
had to do the way I done. But all last night 
when we was climbing the trail in the dark, and 
when the storm got us, and when we lay in that 
filthy den, and most of all this morning when I 
woke up and found you there beside me, the bird 



66 AZALEA 

was singing in my heart. It sings sweeter than 
any of these here birds round about, though 
they sing sweet enough, goodness knows. But 
it's just as if something new was come into 
the world it's just as it was the day Jimmy 
was born and lay on my arm and I knew I had 
a little son of my own. Why, it's just the way 
it was the day I found I had a Saviour, and 
learned that the love of my Heavenly Father 
was round about me, and that I could walk in 
it and fear nothing. Did you ever feel like that, 
Azalea?" 

The girl turned her great eyes on her. 

" No'm, I don't think I ever did." 

' Well, you will, Azalea, you will ! I'm go- 
ing to tell you all about that. I'm going to tell 
you every good thing I know. And you must 
tell me all you know, too, for I'm an unschooled 
woman, who's worked hard and not seen much. 
But anyway, even for me, I can see that life has 
trails that lead up the mountain. Don't you like 
to be here on the mountain top, child? " 

" Oh, I do, ma'am. I think it's the most 
beautiful place I ever did see! " 

" Well, and I was studying about your poor 



IN HIDING 67 

ma. Just think, to-day whatever there is to 
know over beyond life, she's knowing. She was 
brave, wasn't she, and kind? " 

" Yes'm, Oh, yes'm good to folks and ani- 
mals and everything." 

" And it will be counted to her. It's just got 
to be. She's happy and safe to-day; but maybe 
she wouldn't have been happy if she couldn't 
have known you was safe, too, Azalea." 

" Do you think she knows, ma'am? " 

" I think she knows! I can't sit here en this 
mountain top and see them birds winging along 
and hear the wind blowing and the water sing- 
ing and have the little bird singing away in my 
heart and not think she knows. Someway, it's 
like two and two. When you add them they 
make four. I can't explain what I mean, but 
I'm trusting, Azalea, and I'm happy." 

Her thin face shone with a beautiful light, 
and the eyes she turned on Azalea were full of 
lovely tears. The girl crept a little closer to 
her on the broad rock. The long day passed in 
silence, to the humming of bees, to the shifting 
of shadows, to the call of birds. They watched 
the sun set and the stars rise. They felt the dew 



68 AZALEA 

fall on their hands, and saw the blackness drop 
like soft veils. Again they crept into their den, 
this time quite without fear, and slept in each 
other's arms. 



CHAPTER IV 

NEW CLOTHES 

It was about sundown and Pa McBirney and 
Jim were sitting on the porch of their cabin, 
feeling lonesome and deserted, when Dick Bab, 
a bachelor who had a house about halfway be- 
tween the McBirney house and the foot of the 
mountain, came driving up on his yellow mule. 
He grinned when he saw the two sitting there, 
silent. 

" Listening to the whippoorwills? " he asked 
teasingly. 

" Nope," said Pa McBirney shortly. 

" Had your supper? " 

" Such as it was." 

" Suppose you wouldn't have minded a little 
set-to with them there show folks, would ye?" 

" Well, if they'd come, I reckon we-all 
wouldn't have run away. 

" Well, the neighbors thought I'd better ride 
up and let you know that there won't be nothing 
doing. They was all hanging around looking 

69 



70 AZALEA 

for a little amusement too. In fact so many of 
them came down to see what kind of a lay-out 
them folks had, that the show raked in a good 
deal of money more than they've had for a 
long time, to all appearances. Then Elder 
Mills, he spoke up and said he reckoned they'd 
made a pretty good thing out of this commu- 
nity and the best they could do was to be 
a-moving on. He said so emphatic. And the 
others spoke up and said they thought so too. 
So that's the last any of us will see of that outnt. 
They've packed up bag and baggage, and if they 
had any idea of coming up here and making 
trouble for you they concealed it mighty well. 
So your missus may as well come out of hiding 
and enjoy the comforts of her own rooftree." 

"They didn't show much spirit, did they?" 
asked pa in rather a disappointed voice. 

" Not much. But if they'd showed more you 
might have been punctured full of holes by this 
time. I reckon it's better for your health the 
way it is." 

"Like as not; like as not," said pa. "You 
'light, Dick, and spend the night. Me and Jim's 
bunking together, so you can sleep in Jim's bed." 

" I reckon you-all are wanting ma," said 



NEW CLOTHES 71 

Dick. And this time pa showed no resentment. 

" I reckon we be," he admitted. 

So, the next day, about noon, down the steep 
trail walked Pa McBirney with a forked stick 
in his hand. Behind him came ma, who had 
had enough of " sitting " and was ready to go 
to work again. After her came Azalea, whose 
feet seemed fairly to touch the rocks and bound 
off again, and whose little head turned this way 
and that with a birdlike way of trying to see and 
hear all that there was to be seen and heard. 
Last of all came Jim, his arms full of laurel 
blossoms. 

" Well," said ma, looking in at the door of the 
cabin, " If this here place don't look like a hurri- 
cane'd struck it! Azalea, you and me'll have to 
straighten things up. We can change our 
dresses and freshen up afterward." 

" Being a girl's hard luck," thought Jim. 
" Me and pa can sit on the front porch I reckon, 
while the women folks tidy." But he was mis- 
taken. 

" Here you, Jim," called his mother in her 
most businesslike tones, " bring up fresh water 
from the spring. Pa, I'd like some more wood, 
please. Azalea, you can be sweeping out. I'll 



72 AZALEA 

get over hot water for the dishes. I thought 
you promised me, pa, that you'd keep the dishes 
washed! " 

" Didn't I do it then? " said pa despairingly. 
" I washed and washed and Jim wiped and 
wiped till we about dropped." 

" You drop pretty easy," answered ma. But 
she was not scolding. Ma didn't waste much 
time in scolding. There was always a laugh be- 
hind her words when she said a thing like that. 
Jim felt a little cast down. And he wondered 
if the new girl would think they had to work 
like that all the time. He looked at her to see 
how she was taking it, and he found her sweep- 
ing with all of her might. True, his mother 
had to show her how to hold the broom in the 
right way, and how long to take her strokes, but 
she seemed to think it was fine to be able to 
sweep out, and it came over Jim that up to now 
she probably hadn't had a house to sweep, and 
no doubt she liked it. 

But all the work seemed worth while when, 
at last, they sat down at the table together. Ma 
had chopped up some salt pork in beaten eggs, 
and had baked some potatoes in the ashes, and 
made biscuit and a custard pie. And pa had 



NEW CLOTHES 73 

brought in some fresh radishes and mountain 
honey; so there was a real feast for them. 

" This is lots better than a cave," Azalea said 
shyly. " It's lots better than the road too." She 
was looking very odd in a dress of ma's, which 
was worlds too wide for her, and which they 
had tied in with an old blue ribbon. Her pretty, 
birdlike little head came up out of all this cotton 
stuff like the head of a frightened chicken out 
of its ruffled feathers. 

" We've got to get right down to the store, 
Azalea," said ma briskly, " and buy some stuff 
to sew up for you. I can't endure to have you 
looking that a-way." 

" Why, ma, couldn't Molly's clothes be fixed 
up to fit Azalea? There might be some chang- 
ing to do, but you're so handy you could manage 
that." 

" I ain't got a stitch of Molly's clothes left," 
said ma rather sharply. " What do you think 
I'd be doing? Letting them there good things 
lie idle when they was needed by others? Molly 
wouldn't have liked me to do a thing like that, 
would she? I gave them all away." 

" Well, they would have come in handy now, 
ma. Sometimes I think you're too impulsive. 



74 AZALEA 

You just go and do whatever comes into your 
head to do right off quick." 

" So I do, Thomas; so I do. Soon as I laid 
eyes on you I knew you was the man I wanted 
to live with for the rest of my natural life, and 
when you asked me to marry you it didn't take 
me a quarter of a second to say yes. Soon as I 
saw Jimmy there, I knew he was the baby for 
me. Of course he really was mine, and I'd 'a' 
had to put up with him even if I hadn't liked 
the kind he was; but it turned out he was the 
kind to suit me. It was just the same with 
Azalea there. The minute I laid eyes on her, I 
yearned over her, and I can tell just as well as 
if it was proved to me, that she's going to be a 
comfort to all of us. Yes, I'm that way, Thomas, 
mighty impulsive and quick-acting. Now, I've 
just made up my mind that to-morrow we'll all 
go down to Lee together and get what we want 
for Azalea and show the folks what a united 
family we be." 

" You don't want to go flaunting Azalea in 
the faces of folks, do you, ma? " pa protested. 

" Well, I don't know as I'd use the word 
' flaunting/ pa, if I was in your place. The 
folks will be just crazy to see what she's like, 



NEW CLOTHES 75 

and after the stand they took, hustling them show 
people out of the way and all, and maybe saving 
your life by doing it, I think the least we can do 
is to let them see that the girl was worth all the 
trouble they took." 

" Like as not; like as not! " agreed pa. 

That ma had other things on her mind was 
very certain. She went poking over chests and 
drawers, searching for something, and at last 
she came on some undyed homespun cotton of 
her own weaving. She sat for several minutes 
with this on her knees, looking at it. At last she 
called Azalea to her. 

" I've half a mind to use that there blue dye 
Mis' Leiter brought over, to color this here, so's 
I can run up a dress for you, Azalea. I can't 
have you go down to town looking like a scare- 
crow, and I 'clare to goodness, I'm prejudiced 
against having you go down in that outgrown 
dress you had on when I saw you first. Why, 
your arms and legs stuck out like the turkey legs 
on a platter. It ain't fitten for you to go that 
way." 

" It does seem like you have to go to an awful 
lot of trouble for me, ma'am," murmured the 



76 AZALEA 

girl. " And anyway, you couldn't get that done 
for to-morrow." 

Ma muttered something to herself which 
Azalea could not catch, and the next minute 
Mrs. McBirney was away down to the spring, 
building a fire, putting over a pot, and showing 
that she was in for what Jim called " one of her 
spells." 

" When ma has a spell of work," he told 
Azalea, " nothing in this world can stop her." 

It couldn't have been more than an hour later 
that the good, well-made stuff, dyed a rich, dark 
blue, was whipping on the line in the wind. An 
hour after that it was pressed and ready to be 
cut out; and before Azalea could realize what 
had happened, ma was fitting the waist of a new 
dress to her. 

" I always had a knack of snipping things 
out," she told Azalea, " and since I bought that 
there sewing machine with my egg money, I 
can run a thing up in no time. As luck will 
have it, I've got some crocheted edging that 
will look well on the neck and sleeves." 

A minute later she broke out: 

" See here, Azalea, you don't want hot, tight 
sleeves coming down to your wrist, like you was 



NEW CLOTHES 77 

an old woman! I keep my eyes peeled when I 
go down to Lee, and I notice them girls at the 
hotel wears their sleeves about up to their 
elbows. I don't say you want yours hiked up 
quite that high, but we'll have them somewheres 
betwixt and between, shan't we? " 

Azalea nodded. She had little to say. She 
was letting all the comfort of being there soak 
into her as rain soaks into the thirsty earth. 

" And then as to collars! " broke in ma. " I 
can't bear to see a girl with a nice, round little 
throat, all choked up in a collar. I'll cut this 
neck out a little, to give you a chance to crook 
your neck around like a young owl and look at 
the world." 

And then the machine raced along over the 
seams and hems, and the scissors snipped at raw 
edges, and ma's needle flew in and out. It was 
left to Azalea and Jim to get supper, which they 
did well enough. 

" It'll give you a chance to learn where every- 
thing is," said ma. " Jim, you show her the 
spring house and the dishes and everything." 

The little girl had cooked over a camp fire 
more than once, but she had never before set 
what Ma McBirney called " a nice table." 



78 AZALEA 

However, she soon found out the way that the 
McBirneys wanted things done, and meantime 
ma sewed on, faster and faster. Her hair got 
roughed from sitting in the wind, her hands were 
nervous and her eyes too bright, but she had set 
her mind on doing that particular thing and 
nothing that anyone could say to her would 
stop her. She was at the buttonholes when the 
rest of the family crept into bed. 

" Don't you do any worrying about me," she 
bade them. " I'm better satisfied than I ever 
thought to be again." 

So they slept Azalea on a little ' knock- 
down ' that would have to serve till a place had 
been properly provided for her and when 
morning came, on the chair lay the blue frock 
with its handmade edging, as simple and charm- 
ing a little gown as any girl in the country 
would care to wear. Moreover, some faded 
ribbons had been dyed, and looked almost like 
new. And there w r as clean underclothing 
not quite the right size, to be sure and the old 
shoes had been polished and made to look fit. 

But if Azalea thought that everything was to 
be done for her, and that she was to do nothing 
in return, she soon found out that she was wrong. 



NEW CLOTHES 79 

Probably no such idea occurred to her, for she 
was born with a loving heart, and she had 
learned to serve. She was not surprised, there- 
fore, when she found that all of the family got 
up early and worked hard. There were the ani- 
mals to feed, the house to tidy, the water to 
bring, the plants to water, the garden to weed. 
Nobody hurried, exactly, but ma was not fond 
of " lazy bones," and she kept everyone going 
till all was as it should be. She advised pa to 
drive the calf down to the butcher, and she had 
a basket of eggs to get ready. 

But at last all was done, and pa, with Jim 
beside him, sat on the front seat of the wi. r on, 
and ma and Azalea sat in the back seat, all 
clean and fine, ready to drive down the moun- 
tain. The little calf was tied on behind. The 
hounds had been shut up, and only the cat saw 
them off. The chickens and guinea hens and 
turkeys could be heard away up in the brush, 
but they concerned themselves very little with 
the comings and goings of anyone. The mar- 
tins were flying in and out of the high-swung 
gourds, but they seemed to care as little as the 
ground fowl. Neither did the little old house, 
basking there in the sun, seem to mind. And 



80 AZALEA 

the graves there, under the Pride of India trees 
they minded not at all. 

So by steep and pleasant ways, underneath the 
chestnuts and the hemlocks, the oaks and the 
mulberries, the tulip trees and the poplars, the 
McBirneys, four in number, went winding on 
down, down the road toward Lee. 

They had not been an hour on their way be- 
fore something curious happened. There was a 
rushing in the bushes beside the road which 
startled the horses and made Thomas McBirney 
take the whip out of its socket to be ready for 
anything that might arise. And the queer part 
of it was that the creature that was making the 
noise, was running along, trying to keep pace 
with the wagon. 

" If it was one of the hounds broken loose, it 
would set up a cry," said pa. " And it ain't 
leaping and jumping like an animal, nohow." 

Azalea's heart beat hard. She thought that 
perhaps it was, after all, a wild animal, and that 
maybe they would be attacked. She was used 
to being on the road, but this part of the Blue 
Ridge was wilder than that through which she 
usually had traveled. However, there was not 
much time in which to be frightened, for before 



NEW CLOTHES 81 

any one could realize what was happening, Jim 
had leaped over the wagon wheel and plunged 
into the bushes. 

" Hold on there, boy," yelled his father. 
" You don't know what you'll be running into." 

A shout of laughter reached him. 

"Well, I'll be lammed!" cried Jim. "I'll 
be shingled, if it ain't Hi! " 

"High!" cried pa. "How high? What 
high? What you talking about, son? " 

" Oh, it's Hi! it's Hi! " Azalea chorused, and 
in a flash she too was over the wagon wheel and 
in the brush. 

Pa turned an angry face around on his wife. 

" Be them two children crazy? " he de- 
manded. 

At that moment three children instead of two 
shot their heads up above the dark green of the 
wild gooseberry bushes. There was Jim's 
freckled, grinning phiz, Azalea's long, lovely 
face, smiling, too, and the dark, odd little face 
of the show boy, Hi Kitchell. 

" Well, what do you think of that? " groaned 
pa. 

" He sneaked, pa," Jim explained at the top 



82 AZALEA 

of his voice. " When them show folks lit out, 
he just sneaked. Wasn't he the 'cute one? " 

" Goodness, ma, are we going to start an 
orphan asylum?" pa asked under his breath. 

" Might do worse," answered ma. 

But Hi was not an orphan, but a young man 
out for himself, and after he had got into the 
wagon with the others and all were rolling once 
more toward Lee, he made that plain. 

" I went straight to Mr. Hitchcock at the 
mill," said he, " and told him I wanted to go to 
work. He said he'd take me on next Monday. 
Well, that was all right, only I didn't have a 
cent in my pocket, but I someway didn't like to 
fell him that. So I went down town, looking 
around, and the funniest thing you ever heard 
of, happened to me." 

" What? " demanded the other four at once. 

" Well, there was a gentleman come riding in 
on horseback, and he had a little dog with him, 
a terrier. He was an awful cute little dog, and 
when the man went in the post office, I got to 
playing with him. The puppy didn't know a 
trick not a trick. Just plain ignorant, he was. 
The man was in the office a long time, so I got 
to teaching that dog some of the things he ought 



NEW CLOTHES 83 

to know, and by and by the man come out and 
he see me, and he said I was giving that there 
dog the kind of schooling he ought to have." 

"Sho!" said pa. 

" Then he up and asked me where I lived and 
whose boy I was, and I told him the whole 
story." 

" That was right," said ma gently. " That 
was just what you ought to do, Hi." 

" And that gentleman said if I wanted I could 
come up to his house and sleep in the barn, and 
have my meals at the house till I got my first pay 
from the mill, all for teaching his dog tricks. So 
I went up and I've been staying there." 

" You don't seem to be there now," broke in 
pa. " Not so's you could notice it." 

" Why," cried the boy, " I had to come and 
tell you-all, didn't I? I thought you-all would 
be wanting to know." 

" We do; sure we do," ma said, reaching for- 
ward to pat the boy on the shoulder. " Pa's just 
as glad as any one, Hi. Don't you let him fool 
you, the way he speaks." 

" No'em." 

" I don't see no especial reason for rejoicing 
that a poor little boy is going to be shut up in 



84 AZALEA 

that mill," growled pa. " Hain't I heard the 
whistles blowing at five, dark mornings and all, 
rousting them young uns out of bed? And ain't 
I seen 'em trudging home after dark come? All 
the day gone by, and no good to them ! No, you 
don't get no celebration out of me over any child 
or chick getting in that there mill! " 

" Now, please sir," broke in Hi, in a kind of 
free way he had, " don't you worry about me 
none. I'm going in that mill, but I ain't going 
to stay there not unless I like it mighty well. 
I'm going to get on, if I can. I want to get back 
to my ma, or to have my ma and the kids come 
here. But I'm done with that there show and 
that Weary Willie way of living. I ain't going 
to trouble you none, don't you think it. I won't 
even come up to the house if you don't want me 
to. But I'm thankful to you for what you've 
done for Zalie, and for what you done for her 
poor ma, and it just come natural to tell you 
how I was getting on." 

" What made you run along in them there 
bushes the way you did?" asked pa. "Why 
didn't you come out fair and square and holler 
at us and let us know who you was? Why, you 
like to scared my horses." 



NEW CLOTHES 85 

Hi was usually ready with an answer, but now 
he drooped. 

" Can't you speak? " demanded pa. 

" Tell us, Hi," said ma gently. 

" It was just that I wanted to see you-all rid- 
ing along, with Zalie setting up there like she'd 
been born in the family," Hi explained, blush- 
ing. " It done me good to think that there she 
was, with nice people like you, and her every- 
body's slave a day or two ago. I hadn't ought 
to have done it, I know. But honest, I've got 
in some sort of sneaking way, having always to 
dodge and hide and yarn to get on and have any 
peace." 

Pa turned on Hi almost fiercely. 

" See here, you," he said, " don't you do no 
more hiding, nor sneaking, nor fibbing. We-all 
are friends to you, understand? You come up 
to we-all's house like it was your own. Stick in 
the mill a while. It won't hurt you. Mr. 
Hitchcock's a good man good's he can be, I 
reckon. You spend your Sundays with us. You 
can meet us at church and ride up with us. Ma, 
what's happening to that there fool calf? Acts 
like he knowed he was going to be slaughtered, 



86 AZALEA 

don't he? Poor little critter! Say, ma, you do 
the trading to-day you and Azalea. Me and 
Hi and Jim will walk over to the mill and have 
a little talk. I want them overseers to know the 
boy's got his friends." 

It was really pa's way of getting out of facing 
his curious neighbors at the stores. But ma felt 
no such timidity. Her heart swelled with pride 
as Azalea leaped, light as a kitten, from the 
wagon and turned to help Mrs. McBirney down. 
Ma nodded right and left to the people gathered 
to do their Saturday " trading," and she intro- 
duced Azalea, in her gentle, singing voice, to the 
women and girls who came up to meet her. 

" This is my girl," she would say. " Azalea 
McBirney. Come, Azalea, let's go in and see if 
they have something that'll do for the makings 
of a dress. How'd you like a green gingham 
pale green you know? And that there white 
barred stuff ain't but fifteen cents a yard. How 
d'ye do, Mr. Constance? Pretty day, ain't it? 
Do you reckon you could take these here eggs 
and let me do a little trading with you? Yes, 
this is the girl. You can call her my girl, when 
/ou're speaking of her. I'd like to get her out- 



NEW CLOTHES 87 

fitted here at your place if you'd be so kind, Mr. 
Constance." 

Azalea stood facing her new world, so to 
speak, and on every face she saw welcome. 



CHAPTER V 

THE SHOALS 

"Jim," cried Azalea, "my room's done at 
last. Come see it, quick! " 

" I've looked at that room and looked at it. I 
don't believe it's any different from what it was 
yesterday." 

"James Stuart McBirney, it is too! Ma's 
hung a blue curtain over the place where my 
clothes hang, and she's got a braided rug on the 
floor and a cheesecloth curtain at the window, 
and she's covered my stand with blue and white 
print. The way she's fixed up those cones and 
pine leaves, you'd never know the looking glass 
was broke. It's the prettiest room I ever saw. 
Oh, Jim, do come! " 

Jim pretended that he wasn't interested, and 
stamped up the new stairs his father had built, 
and along the platform which led to the attic 
room which had been given Azalea for her own. 
Although Jim was supposed not to care anything 
about the room, he had, nevertheless, braided a 



THE SHOALS 89 

hammock of warp such as his mother used on 
her loom, and this hammock had been swung 
out on the platform. Azalea could lie there and 
look straight up the mountain side. Jim had 
helped, too, with the making of the bedstead and 
the splint-bottomed chairs and the dresser, and 
in the bottom of his heart he thought it was just 
the kind of a room Azalea ought to have she 
was so pretty and well, Jim couldn't quite 
find the word to describe her but she re- 
minded him of a pinky-white trillium. Not that 
he would have said so. He treated her just as 
if she had been his own sister, and that means 
that he led her rather a hard life at times. But 
that didn't seem to bother Azalea at all. She 
would do anything for him, and she could tease 
back when she had a mind to, and when he " got 
her in a corner," as he put it, she laughed her 
ringing laugh. 

" Some girls would get mad to be treated the 
way Jim treats Azalea," ma used to say. " But 
she's got the sweetest disposition of anybody I 



ever saw." 



" Not too sweet to hold her own," answered 
Thomas McBirney. " At first I thought to my- 
self, I'll have to pitch in and take that girl's part, 



90 AZALEA 

but after a time I says to myself, I reckon I'll 
leave them two young uns to take care of their- 
selves." 

They used to buy each other to do things, by 
promising to tell stories. If Jim wanted Azalea 
to help him gather firewood, he offered to tell 
her a story in payment for her help. If Azalea 
wanted Jim to help her scrub the floor, she 
promised him a story of things that had hap- 
pened to her when she was " on the road." One 
day Jim told Azalea the story his father had 
told him that day on the mountain, about the old 
Atherton mansion, and how it had stood vacant 
for years and years, with the swallows flying in 
and out its chimneys, and the snakes and squir- 
rels and birds having their way with it. 

" There's snakes in the grass and bats in the 
porches and wild doves in the barn," said Jim. 
" A boy I know told me about it. He says you 
can't count the squirrels and the catbirds and 
the robins and the thrushes. Some think it's 
haunted, but I don't reckon there's much in that 
story. I'm not long on ghosts." 

" It might have a ghost," said Azalea wist- 
fully. " Anyway, I'd like to see it the house, 
I mean. Oh, Jimmy, I'd just love to see it! 



THE SHOALS 91 

Let's ask ma if we-all can't go picnicking down 
there." 

Ma was doubtful. She said she'd fooled 
away altogether too much time lately that 
she'd never been so lazy. But at this her whole 
family laughed so, for they almost never caught 
her for a moment idle, that she gave in and 
agreed to go the next Saturday. 

" Pa'll be driving to town, and we-all will go 
along. We can get out at the Old Green Place 
and cut off across to the Atherton Place and eat 
our lunch there, and then pa, he can meet us at 
the Green Place again on the way home. 

" The road to town used to run by the Ather- 
ton house," pa said. " But it did seem as if it 
picked up every hill in the whole county, and 
now that the road ain't been taken care of for a 
dozen years, it's just a pesky lot of sink holes. 
Why, it's as much as a horse's life is worth to 
take it over that there road." 

Saturday morning came with the bluest of 
skies. Little soft white clouds floated over it 
like happy ships on a sea; and the wind was 
playful, too, and the sunshine friendly. The 
four got off very early and rattled down the 
mountain side in a manner te take the breath 



92 AZALEA 

away from anyone who had not perfect confi- 
dence in Pa McBirney's driving. 

At last the " Old Green Place " was reached, 
and ma prepared to get out with the children. 
But pa objected. 

" See here, I don't think this is a fair deal, 
ma," he said. " Me going off all by myself, 
eating my lunch alone in this tarnation old 
wagon, and you three picnicking! You come 
along with me, ma. I'm not fit to do trading by 
myself. You know you've often said that." 

Ma made a face at him, for she knew he had 
her there, but she really did think it rather dull 
for pa to drive on alone seven miles to town, and 
so, after she had made the children promise that 
they would be careful about this, that and the 
other thing, and be at the Green Place in the 
middle of the afternoon, she went on to Lee 
with pa. 

The two children turned their faces down an 
unknown road, overhung with great chestnuts 
and lindens, and cut into deep gulleys by the 
rains. The way looked lonely and beautiful and 
strange and Azalea felt her heart beating a little 
faster than usual. She was just going to say to 




"She ran out to meet me," he cried. 



THE SHOALS 93 

Jim that they'd probably get lost, when some- 
thing ran swiftly across their path. 

"An adder!" cried Jim. a A gray adder! 
That's the poisonest snake that lives anywhere 
here about. Don't you go fooling with snakes 
like that, Zalie, whatever you do. Why, once I 
teased a gray adder till he got so mad he bit 
himself. And in three minutes he was dead." 

" Honest? " 

" Honest! You say you're sorry for snakes 
I like 'em to kill! but don't you fool none 
around an adder." 

" You didn't try to kill that one." 

" Well, if I hadn't been going for a good time, 
I would. Somehow, when I'm going out for a 
good time, I don't like to begin by killing some- 
thing." 

Azalea laughed lightly, and the two went on 
along the shady road. Twice they crossed 
creeks amber-colored, rippling streams that 
sang over the stones. One they jumped across ; 
the other was too wide for that, but they found 
a narrow swinging bridge a little way upstream. 

" Don't it seem strange to think that there used 
to be people and people going along here," 



94 AZALEA 

mused Azalea, " and now almost no one comes 
here!" 

Jim nodded. He hadn't much time to think 
about things like that. He was wondering what 
he would find at the Atherton house. 

After a time they came to a sunny piece of 
road, and along the side a clay bank punctured 
with little holes. 

" Oh, doodle bug holes ! " cried Jim. " Come, 
let's get the doodle bugs out." So the two chil- 
dren got down on their knees and blew into the 
holes where the bugs lived and called three 
times : 

" Doodle bug, come out of your hole! " 

And the doodle bugs cime out politely, and 
ran about this way and that as if looking for the 
person who had called them. 

" I spose we're too large for them to see," said 
Azalea. 

They had been told to keep their lunch until 
noon, but they felt so hungry at least Jim did 
- that they decided to eat it at once. So they 
got out the cold biscuit spread with honey and 
the bottle of milk and the cornbread sandwiches 
with the bacon between and ate it all. Not a 
scrap did they leave. Then they took a long 
drink of spring water and started on again. 



THE SHOALS 95 

" It's about ten o'clock," said Azalea. " By 
noon we'll be hungry again, and by four o'clock 
we'll be starved to death. Pa and ma will come 
along and find two heaps of bones at the Old 
Green Place, and they'll never know it's us, and 
they'll go up the mountain weeping and gnash- 
ing their teeth." 

Jim looked at her admiringly. 

" I don't see how you think of so many things 
to say, Zalie. I can't think of things to say." 

" Then take me along with you wherever you 
go, Jimmy." 

" All right," said he. 

At last they got in sight of the Atherton estate. 
Tim saw it first. 

" Look there! Look there! " he cried. " Did 
you ever see such hedges? " 

They ran through the trees, then along beside 
the great hedge as far as the gateway. 

" Why, the gates are open, ain't they, Jim? " 

" Say, they are! Now what do you think of 
that? Zalie, there's smoke coming out of the 
kitchen chimney and the grass is cut. And, 
look there, a man is painting the house." 

" There's folks living there, Jim. Maybe it's 
ghosts like I said." 



96 AZALEA 

" No it ain't. I smell the paint. And that's 
old man Hendricks doing that painting. It 
wouldn't be right to holler to him, would it, 
Azalea?" 

" The folks might hear you. It's queer pa 
didn't know folks had moved in." 

" Well, pa ain't been to town for three weeks, 
and anyway, he might not come on anybody that 
would tell him. Lots of rich folks comes to 
Lee now. They come down there because they 
think it's pretty. That don't seem much of a 
reason for coming to a place, does it? " 

" Well, I reckon that's why your pa and ma 
stopped away up on Tennyson mountain, Jim. 
It ain't no way convenient to anything just 
way off by itself. If it wasn't thafrthey stopped 
on account of prettiness, what was it? " 

" Pshaw! Pa wouldn't stop nowhere for 
prettiness." 

" I'll bet he would! I'll just bet he would." 

" I guess I know pa better than you do, Zalie. 
I've known him years, and you've known him 
weeks." 

" It ain't the length of time you know a person 
that counts, Jim. It's the looking in at their 
hearts and the understanding of them." 



THE SHOALS 97 

" You think you're pretty smart, don't you? 
Knowing my pa better than I know him! " 

" Oh, Jim, see! A girl!" 

Their little pretense at quarreling for it 
was only a pretense was stopped by the ap- 
pearance of a little girl on the portico of the 
great house. 

She looked quite small to them at first, stand- 
ing among the great pillars that ran up the front 
of the house, but as she walked on down the old 
brick walk toward the gateway, they saw that 
she was almost as tall as Azalea, and quite a 
little heavier. She was all russet brown hair, 
eyes, frock, stockings and shoes, and in her arms 
she carried a little silky dog with long ears and 
wistful, bulging eyes. 

" We ought to go away," whispered Azalea. 
" We've no business to stand staring in at other 
folks's yards like this. It ain't polite." 

But though she said this, she did not move an 
inch, and as for Jim, he stood with his mouth 
open, watching that girl dance down the long 
brick walk between the box hedges. 

Suddenly she saw the children and stopped. 
Her eyes rested on Jim a moment and she seemed 
to smile at his kind, freckled, jolly phiz. Then 



9 8 AZALEA 

she saw Azalea and the look in her face changed 
to one of deeper interest. Azalea, standing 
slender and straight there in her clean blue 
frock, with her gray eyes shining and her long 
hair beautifully braided, certainly was good to 
look at. So the girl came on, not dancing now, 
but hastening along as if bent on business. 

" How do you do? " she said sweetly, blushing 
a little with shyness. 

" I'm very well, thank you," said Azalea. 
" How are you? " 

Jim made a noise in his throat to show that he 
meant well, but no one could tell what words he 
was trying to say. 

"Do you live near here?" the little girl in- 
quired. 

Jim pointed over his shoulder. 

" We come from up mountain." 

"You're not brother and sister!" exclaimed 
the girl. 

Jim wondered what Azalea would say. He 
was very proud of her. She seemed to him like 
a humming bird that had come to live among 
wrens, and he wondered if she would be 
ashamed of him? He was a happy boy, who 
wasted no time in thinking about uncomfortable 



THE SHOALS 99 

things, but now, suddenly it came over him that 
he was rather a stupid chap, with trousers that 
were too long for him, and a waist that was too 
short in the sleeves, and bare feet and a freckled 
face. Azalea's clothes were new, and anyway, 
his mother knew much more about dressing 
girls than she did about dressing boys. And 
then no matter how he dressed or how he tried 
he never could look like Azalea! 

She was speaking now, and he put aside his 
thoughts to listen. 

"Jim's father and mother took me in," she 
was saying softly, " and they treat me like I was 
their own.v My mother died just a little while 
ago, and my father w r ell, I never saw him at 
all and now I say my name is McBirney, just 
like Jim's. He's James Stuart McBirney. I'm 
Azalea they let me be called Azalea Mc- 
Birney." 

It was beautifully done lovingly done. Her 
pleasant voice caressed the words, her gratitude 
put a little dew into her eyes. The other girl 
stood listening and looking and " Oh! " she said. 
Then she looked at Jim and smiled and said 
" Oh," once more. And after that she mur- 
mured, "Azalea! How pretty! My name is 



ioo AZALEA 

Carin Carson, and we've just moved here. I 
don't know anyone and I'm dreadfully lone- 
some. Couldn't you come in and play for a little 
while?" 

" Thank you," said Azalea, " I s'pose we 
could. We really came down here to see this 
house, but we didn't know anyone was living in 
it. We thought it would be such fun to see a 
house that no one had lived in for years and 
years." 

"Did you? Why, so did I. And so did papa 
and mamma. It's a beautiful old house, isn't it? 
We find something new about it almost every 
hour. Why, this morning what do you think we 
found?" 

The children shook their heads. 

" A secret staircase! Yes, we did. It runs up 
from a sitting room in that far wing to a bed- 
room above. There's no door you can see 
only panels that slide in the wainscoting. It's 
more fun! Wouldn't you like to see it? " 

" I'd just love to see it. But your ma would 
she like us to come in? I don't believe I'd like 
to come in unless your ma said we might." 

" Well, you are particular," laughed Carin. 
" You must have been very strictly brought up. 



THE SHOALS 101 

I'll go ask my mamma, if you'll wait a minute. 
Come in and sit on this bench." 

And without waiting to see them seated under 
the wide-branching plane tree, she sped away 
up the walk. Azalea looked after her rather 
gloomily. What would this nice girl say if she 
knew that Azalea had been brought up with a 
traveling show a miserable show, with coarse, 
profane men and women in it? And then she 
remembered, how, though her mother was one 
of them, and always seemed to want to stay with 
them and was frightened if any people from the 
towns tried -to know her, yet her mother had 
been different from the others. And coarse and 
mean as the show people had been, they were 
nevertheless afraid of what she would think of 
them, in a way; and Azalea knew that no unkind 
or unlovely word ever had passed her lips. She 
had been most careful about her daughter's man- 
ner and language, and as a matter of fact, Azalea 
knew how to use much better grammar than she 
usually employed. She talked carelessly be- 
cause the people around her did so, and because 
she didn't want to seem a bit finer than dear Pa 
and Ma McBirney. Whatever they said, some- 
how sounded right to her. 



102 AZALEA 

In a moment or two Azalea saw Carin coming 
back with a tall, slender lady. The lady was 
dressed in white and wore a white scarf that 
drifted back from her shoulders. Even her 
shoes and her parasol were white. 

" That's the ghost, if there is one, I reckon," 
whispered Jim. Azalea arose as the lady drew 
near and bowed politely, and Jim did the same, 
because he saw Azalea doing it. The lady shook 
hands with them when Carin had introduced 
them, and talked with them a little while. 

" How fortunate it is," she said in a fluty 
voice, " that you and papa and I bought this 
house before Jim and his sister saw it, isn't it? 
They'd have got it away from us I'm afraid." 
She laughed lightly and looked down at them 
with large, warm brown eyes like her daughter's. 
" Well," she went on, " since we were the lucky 
ones, Carin, the only thing we can do is to show 
them our treasures." And she led the way back 
to the house. Carin gave a little skip. 

" Don't you think she's a dear? " she whis- 
pered to Azalea. " She's the sweetest mother in 
the world ! " 

Azalea had a vision of her own tired, frail lit- 
tle mother in her silly show dresses, smiling and 



THE SHOALS 103 

bowing to the crowds of common people that 
came to hear them, and she shivered as if a 
chilly wind had blown over her. Yet her mother 
might have looked as beautiful as this 
lady, she thought, if she could have walked 
about a lovely garden with a scarf like a cobweb 
floating from her shoulders. 

They were taken into the wide hall which ran 
straight through the house and showed a garden 
in the rear, where a fountain played; and 
through the long drawing room, where as yet 
there were only piles of heaped-up furniture, 
then into a gay little room Mrs. Carson called 
the morning room, where bright birds were pic- 
tured on the curtains and the chair backs; and 
then into the sitting room in the far wing, where 
servants were putting hundreds of books on the 
shelves. 

"Let me show them, mother!" cried Carin, 
and she ran forward to a piece of the high panel- 
ing which was not occupied by book shelves, and 
pushed a little spring, and whish! back into the 
casement flew the door. 

"Look up! Look!" said Carin, dancing 
about in her delight. Azalea ran forward and 
looked up the dark narrow stairs. 



104 AZALEA 

" Who do you see coming down? " asked Mrs. 
Carson. 

" A tall old man, with stooped shoulders and 
a dreadful frown," said Azalea. 

At that, Jim looked up. 

" Why, Zalie," he said, " I don't see anyone! " 
Azalea was going to laugh, but she saw that 
Carin and Mrs. Carson didn't laugh. 

" It's only our nonsense, Jim," the lady said 
smilingly. " There isn't one of course." 

She looked at her two visitors for a moment. 
Jim was inquisitive. He wanted to know all 
there was to know. He was out gunning, so to 
speak, for facts. Azalea was wandering along 
hoping to meet with fancies. She was the one 
with the imagination. 

" I don't know which I like best," thought 
Mrs. Carson. " But I'm sure they make a good 
team." Aloud she said: "What do you think 
of lunch in the garden? Everyone in the house 
save us is as busy as busy as can be. Shall we 
get our own lunch? " 

So, hardly believing that it could all be true, 
Jim and his sister went with Mrs. Carson and 
Carin into the great cool pantry and helped 
spread the thin slices of bread, and to cut the 



THE SHOALS 105 

cheese and dish the honey and slice the cold 
chicken. And then they sat where the cucumber 
oleanders shed their fragrance, and the sound of 
the fountain whispered in their ears, and ate and 
talked and laughed together. 

Afterward they explored the garden and the 
barn at least the children did and then the 
hour came for the McBirneys to go. 

" Could I see your mother? " asked Azalea. 
" Do you think she's resting? " 

" I'll go see," Carin said. Mrs. Carson came 
back with her and smiled upon the children. 

" Happy days, happy days! " she sighed. " It's 
nice to be as young as you are." 

" We certainly have been happy, ma'am," 
Azalea said. " You've been so good to us, and 
we're just strangers. I don't see how you could 
be so good when you didn't know us or 
anything." 

" My dear," said the lady, " A few years ago 
something happened to me which made me de- 
cide to be happy whenever I had the chance, and 
to make other people happy in the same way. I 
saw you and wanted to know you. Carin wanted 
to know you. You wished to see our home. It 
was the kind of a home you would have picked 



106 AZALEA 

out for your own if you could. It was the merest 
accident that I had it and you didn't. Very well, 
I've shared it with you. See? Come again, 
come again! We keep open doors at The 
Shoals." 

Azalea got away somehow, her heart dancing 
with gratitude. Jim followed. They were late, 
and they ran along the uneven, shady road. Pa 
and Ma McBirney were already at the " Old 
Green Place," a little tired of waiting but very 
good-natured notwithstanding. So, since every- 
thing was going well it seemed a little odd that 
Azalea should put her head down in Ma Mc- 
Birney's lap and softly weep. 

Never did Alazea love this dear woman more 
than when she found that she was to be allowed 
to weep if she liked without being asked why. 
Mary McBirney stroked the soft hair and said 
nothing was most careful in fact, not to call 
the attention of Jim and his father to her out- 
burst. At last Azalea lifted her face, tear- 
stained and smiling. 

" I've been so happy," she whispered. " When 
we get home I'll tell you all about it. Every- 
thing seems different." 

Jim had been rattling on to his father on the 



THE SHOALS 107 

front seat, and Mrs. McBirney, who had man- 
aged to catch a part of what he was saying, had 
some idea of why the world seemed different. 
She, herself, thought that Azalea, the daughter 
of the wandering show woman, was really meant 
for a beautiful life like that of the Carson's, 
rather than a life of work and poverty and hard- 
ship like her own. 

" But I'll give her what I can," she thought. 
" I'll give her love." 



CHAPTER VI 

GROWING PAINS 

That night Mary McBirney carried the 
candle up to the loft for Azalea and sat beside 
her while she undressed. 

" I reckon you feel a little upset, honey," she 
said in her gentle, motherly way. "You saw 
them grand folks with their fine ways, and beau- 
tiful home, and nice clothes, and it made you feel 
you wasn't nobody. I know just how you feel. 
I was born up Blue River Valley way, and till 
I was fifteen I didn't see nobody but folks of the 
same kind as mine. Then two ladies came driv- 
ing through our country, writing up us moun- 
tain people, and telling all about the mountains 
and what trees and flowers was on 'em, and they 
asked me to go along to do the cooking for them, 
and shake down their beds for 'em and all that. 
So I went, and set up on the front seat of the 
carriage with the driver, and I heard all they 
had to say, and watched their way of doing 
things. Well, it set me back some. I found out 

108 



GROWING PAINS 109 

that what I knew wouldn't fill the thimble point 
of their knowing. They was wearing rough 
clothing for camping, but if I tried all my days 
I couldn't make clothes look like that. I 
wouldn't know how to buy them if I had the 
money. Me, I just did things anyhow, to get 
them done, but they had a right way for every- 
thing and rules about how to act in every kind 
of case. At first I tried to catch on to their ways, 
but at last I saw it was going to be too much for 
me, and I just settled down to be content in my 
own way with my own kind of folks. But my 
pillow was wet many a night, honey. Growing 
pains, they were. You're having them now." 

" And so is Jim, I s'pose," sighed the girl. 
" I s'pose he feels the same way all mixed up." 

" He ain't feeling nothing like you be," de- 
clared ma. "Jim's a boy, and matter of fact. 
He's a leetle older than you, really, but not near 
so old in his feelings. Jim saw what there was 
to see on top saw what was floating along the 
surface. But you think and feel in a different 
way, and your feelings go down deeper. Now 
mind, I don't say that I think they always will. 
Jim's tender and he's true, and when men are 
tender and true they feel deeper than any woman 



no AZALEA 

can feel. At least no woman can get ahead of 
them that way. I'm waiting for Jim to get a 
little older before his feelings set, so to speak. 
Just now he ain't got any more opinions than a 
nice soft bunny." 

" Oh, ma," cried Azalea, " you don't really 
know him if you think that! Jim does a lot of 
thinking, and he's as tender-hearted as he can 
be." 

Ma McBirney blew out the candle and smiled 
to herself in the dark. She loved to hear her 
Jimmy praised. But he had seemed a little dull 
and backward in comparison with the girl, and 
in her silent jealousy for her boy, she had spoken 
of him in a fault-finding way. It healed her to 
hear him praised in that warm manner. 

" We're lucky ones, Thomas," she said when 
she had gone downstairs, " to have two children 
like them. They're pure gold." 

" So they be," said pa. " So they be! " 

And then he and ma walked silently out to the 
Pride of India tree beneath which their Molly 
and Azalea's mother were buried, and stood 
there a few minutes before they closed up the 
house for the night. 



GROWING PAINS in 

The next week when pa went to town, he 
brought back great news. 

" Them there Carsons down in the Atherton 
house," he said to his family at supper, " are up 
to the greatest things you ever heard of. They're 
making all the mountain folks welcome, and 
buying up their pieced bedquilts and their hand- 
weaving, and their baskets and chairs. Why, 
Mr. Carson, he and me was made acquainted by 
the grocer, and he asked me if I done anything 
in the way of hand work. Well, I allowed I 
made pretty good chairs, and he told me to bring 
down half a dozen big roomy ones for his porch. 
He said like as not some of his friends would 
want some too. Then I told him about your 
weaving and he said he'd like to drive his wife 
up to see it. Said he'd like to look over our 
place. I'd been telling him how sightly it was. 
They've got everybody humping. Cannaby's 
making roads for him, and Fletcher's making 
shoes, and he's buying up fine hens wants 
some of my guinea hens and he's looking for 
a good cow, and I don't know what all. I ain't 
seen things so lively down street since I can 
recollect." 

" If he comes up, he'll bring Miss Carin, 



ii2 AZALEA 

won't he? Oh, ma, do you think he'll bring Miss 
Carin?" 

" Sure he will," said Mary McBirney. " She 
wouldn't let him come up here without her if 
she had her way, after all the liking she took to 
you." 

" And to Jim, ma. She liked Jim just as much 
as she did me." 

" Go along," said Jim, " she wouldn't 'a' 
looked at me if you hadn't been there, Zalie." 

" She would too! What makes him act like 
that, ma?" 

" He's naturally modest and retiring," said 
pa with a twinkle in his eye. " He takes after 



me." 



" They must be awful good folks, them Car- 
sons," said ma admiringly. 

" They've got plenty of goodness, but they 
ain't blessed with any too much sense," remarked 
pa. 

"What makes you think that, Thomas?" 

" Well, the folks was telling me how this Mr. 
Carson goes riding all over the mountain alone. 
He don't seem to have no idea that he might 
stumble on something it would be best for him 
not to see. Any morning, if he gets up early, he 



GROWING PAINS 113 

can see a dozen streams of smoke rising from 
the mountain side, and if he's got the sense of a 
mule, he'll know that there's a moonshine still 
at every one of them colyumns of smoke. Any 
baby'd know that. The sensible thing for folks 
to do in this part of the country, is to keep to 
the beaten track, and not to go too far on that. 
Them moonshiners is dreadful sensitive. They 
think folks is prying into their affairs when they 
ain't no such intention and once they get that 
idea they make it mighty uncomfortable for 
whoever has come under suspicion." 

" You ought to warn him, pa. He can't know 
our ways." 

" They ain't my ways, I tell you that! Moon- 
shining ways ain't my ways," declared pa. 

Azalea didn't entirely understand about these 
" moonshiners " as they were called, though she 
had heard about them all her life. Pa explained 
to her that they were people who made crude 
whiskey from the corn and sold it without pay- 
ing the government the tax which it had placed 
upon liquor, and that because they did not pay 
this tax they had to make their whiskey in secret. 
The officers of the government were always on 
the outlook for them, and so these people had 



1 14 AZALEA 

to keep on an outlook for the officers, and they 
were liable to think that everyone who got 
anywhere near them was spying on them. 

" On the face of it," said pa meditatively, " I 
suppose it don't seem so bad making some- 
thing you know how to make and selling it to 
them as wants to buy, without saying by-your- 
leave to no one. But the country can't be run 
without money, and one of the ways it takes to 
raise money is by placing a big tax on liquor. 
As for me, I wouldn't care if 'twas ten times 
bigger than it is. It's done a heap more harm 
than good, to my mind, although I'm not so pig- 
headed as to deny that it can do good sometimes. 
But it ain't just the making and selling of the 
whiskey in secret that hurts these moonshiners. 
It's the setting themselves against the law, and 
getting to be outlaws, and keeping hate and fear 
and suspicion in their hearts early and late, and 
bringing up their children to the same ideas. 
It's a wicked thing, Azalea, and it brings trouble 
beyond measuring to the folks down here." 

" And yet," said ma, " I know some moon- 
shiners who are very pleasant people." 

" Sure! " cried pa. " They'll do anything for 
their friends and they'll stand by each other 



GROWING PAINS 115 

through thick and thin. And you're not to think 
that they're all ignorant and unlearned. Some 
of them is smart as whips, and send their chil- 
dren away to school and take books out of the 
public library there at Lee. I could mention 
some not an hour's ride from this very spot who 
do it. And I've known whole communities of 
moonshiners to be converted and join the church 
and turn from their evil ways, and they make 
pretty noisy church members, most of them. 
It seems like they take their religion hard. I've 
heard them at camp meeting and they was doing 
more hollering and shouting than all the rest 
put together. I reckon they thought the Lord 
had a good deal to forgive." 

"Why, pa!" murmured Mrs. McBirney. 
"How you talk! And before the children! 
But now you can see, Azalea, why I don't want 
you wandering around alone on these mountains. 
You're likely to run into one of them stills while 
they're in operation, and while they wouldn't 
do any harm to a girl, they'd think it up to them 
to give her a dreadful scare. So you stick to 
the places you know about. You hear? " 

" Yessum." 

Azalea thought about the moonshiners a good 



u6 AZALEA 

deal after this. It seemed to her to be dreadful 
not to be able to live in a free and open way. 
She could think of nothing that she would hate 
worse than having to hide, or to be forever on 
the watch. In the old days when she had 
traveled with the show she often had been made 
to feel that people did not want them around. 
They had, in a way, been under suspicion, and 
houses were always locked up more carefully 
when the show people came to town. Not that 
there was any need of it, so far as she knew. 
They had not been thieves; but they had been 
careless and dirty and miserable enough. It was 
very different from the life she was leading 
now. Pa and Ma McBirney could look any- 
body in the face. They would go out from their 
door, smiling, to meet the people driving by, and 
would always beg them to stop and have some 
spring water or fresh milk; and Jim and she 
were proud to be with them. Everyone seemed 
to like the McBirneys. Everyone thought they 
were good and Azalea knew they were and 
that it was an honor for her to bear their name. 
At the same time, Azalea realized that she 
was somehow different from them. For exam- 
ple, ma had spoken of giving up trying to be like 



GROWING PAINS 117 

those ladies she traveled with. When she found 
they had so many rules and ways which she 
couldn't understand, she made up her mind not 
to worry about all of these strange matters, but 
to be contented with her own people and their 
manner of doing things. Now Azalea felt sure 
that she, for her part, would not have given up. 

" I'd have learned their way of doing things," 
she said to herself. " I'd have found out about 
those things that they knew and I didn't, 'deed 
I would. I just hate to have folks get ahead of 
me! I'm like old Nannie; I want to keep up 
with everything on the road. And Jim does too, 
I reckon. I hope pa and ma will let us go to 
school when it opens, though Jim says it's a 
dreadful long walk. But I don't mind walking. 
Mercy, if anybody knows how to walk, I'm the 
person! " 

It was the very next Sunday that Azalea 
found out what the moonshiners would do even 
to a person they were not much afraid of. She 
had gone to the spring house early, to get the 
cream and butter, when she saw some one dash- 
ing out of the bushes. It was a boy, but it took 
her several moments to find out that it was some 
one she knew. When she made out that it was 



u8 AZALEA 

her old friend Hi Ketchell with that white face 
and those frightened eyes, she was amazed. 

"Whatever ails you, Hi?" she called, run- 
ning toward him. " You haven't been bitten by 
a rattler have you? " 

But Hi was too out of breath to answer at once, 
and he dropped down on the seat by the spring 
house while Azalea brought him a glass of 
water. 

" It was men! " he managed to gasp at last. 
" It was men, Zalie. They was going to kill me, 
and I hadn't done no manner of harm to them. 
I was walking up the trail for I thought I 
might as well be here in time for breakfast, since 
Mrs. McBirney had asked me to spend the day 
and I thought I'd take some short cuts. So 
plunk I went up the mountain, and the first 
thing I knowed, I had run plumb into a whole 
gang of men working like good fellows with a 
fire and coils of pipe and kettles, and I don't 
know what all. Soon as my eyes lighted on to 
them I guessed it was a moonshiners' still, and I 
tried to crawl away without anybody's seeing 
me. But, sir, one fellow, he caught sight of me, 
and he grabbed his gun and started after me, 
and two others grabbed their guns, and I just 



GROWING PAINS 119 

hiked up the mountain and they after me. But 
laws, I couldn't run with them fellows. Seems 
as if their legs was about three yards long. They 
got me in no time and they stood me up against 
a tree and backed off and pointed their guns at 
me and told me if I didn't promise I'd never, 
never tell on them, they'd put so many holes into 
me my mother'd think I was a sieve. Well, I 
give my word I wouldn't tell where their place 
was, nor anything about them, and they let me 
go, but they said if I wasn't out of sight in two 
minutes they'd fire anyway. And they run after 
me a ways just to give me a start." 

He grinned up at Azalea, as if half ashamed 
of the whole affair, and she laughed back at 
him, reassuringly, though her face was rather 
white too. 

" But you've told me, Hi," she sard. " And 
you've broken your promise." 

Hi frowned. 

" Zalie," he said sternly, " Don't I tell you 
everything? Besides, you don't know where 
their place is, and I ain't going to tell, partly 
because I don't want to, and partly because I 
don't know. I don't see how I ever found the 
way here at all, I was so mixed up. And what's 



120 AZALEA 

more, I don't attach no importance to a promise 
that's wrung out of a fellow like that. Of course 
I promised! I had to. But that's a very differ- 
ent thing from a promise you give on your honor. 
I don't want you to think I'd break a promise, 
Zalie not a fair and square promise." 

" Oh, Hi! don't I know you wouldn't? I'm 
only teasing. I won't say a word about it to any- 
one ; but it shows ma was right. She said I must 
keep to the road and not go prowling off by my- 
self. How are you getting on, Hi? " 

" Oh, first-rate. I don't like being shut up in 
the mill all day any too well, of course. You 
see, it comes hard on a fellow who's been used 
to being out of doors early and late. But there's 
little children there, Zalie little, little chil- 
dren. It makes me feel dreadful to see them. 
I tell you, I'm not meaning to stay there long. 
I'm looking about all the time for some kind of 
an outdoor job. Mr. Carson, he's got me to 
pulling weeds out of his brick walk. I have 
about half an hour after work and before it gets 
dark and that lets me do quite a lot at the Car- 
sons; and then they give me my supper there." 

" But that makes such long hours. Hi," 
Azalea protested. " You'll wear yourself out." 



GROWING PAINS 121 

" No I won't, Zalie. I'm made of cast iron. 
And then the working out of doors sort of rests 
me. It gives me an appetite too. And I tell 
you what, I want to please Mr. Carson. He's 
a fire man to work for. Ke seems to kind of 
notice rne, and I think maybe I can get took on 
there at his place." 

" The Carsons are like that. They notice 
everybody. They even noticed Jim and me." 

" Why, you goose, anybody would notice 
you!" cried Hi. "Don't you know that yet? 
Jim's a mighty pleasant-looking boy too. Looks 
as if he knew which end he was standing on, all 
right." 

But at that moment Ma McBirney's voice, 
with a tone of impatience in it, came out to 
them. 

" Azalea, child, where in the name of good- 
ness have you gone? Don't you know we're 
waiting breakfast? Hurry up, child, do. Pa 
has just made up his mind to take us all to the 
Singing." 

" The Singing? What's the Singing? " asked 
Azalea, as she and Hi ran toward the house with 
the butter and the milk in their hands. 

" Don't tell me you don't know what a sing- 



122 AZALEA 

ing is," said pa. Hi and Azalea shook their 
heads. 

" Well, then," said pa, " nobody is to tell you, 
and before long you'll see for yourselves. 
Hustle now, we ought to have been on the road 
by this time. It slipped my mind this was the 
date, till the Groggings went by and reminded 



me." 



" My goodness," sighed ma, " I'm glad our 
best dresses are fresh ironed, Azalea. Here, 
everybody pay strict attention to eating! We've 
got to get off if we're to take any part in the 
doings! " 



CHAPTER VII 

THE SINGING 

" Say," said Hi as he and Jim washed their 
faces and gave an extra fine brushing to their 
hair, " ain't I the lucky one though, going off 
like this with you-all? I don't see how it 
comes your pa and ma are so good to me and 
Zalie." 

" Comes natural to them," growled Jim, 
much embarrassed by this praise of the persons 
he loved best. " They're even good to me." 

" Get out! " cried Hi, sprinkling some water 
on Jim's clean waist. 

" Here you, if you think so much of my ma, 
what are you spoiling all her work for? " 
shouted Jim. " You need a little learning, that's 
what you need! " 

The next moment the two boys had gripped 
and were rolling on the floor together. Mrs. 
McBirney heard the rumpus and came running, 
but her gentle voice could barely make itself 
heard as the two boys threshed around on the 

123 



124 AZALEA 

floor, and it took Thomas McBirney's strong 
hand and firm voice to bring them to their feet 
again, half laughing and half angry, and red as 
turkey cocks. 

" A likely way to begin the Sabbath," pa re- 
proved them. " Brush yourselves off now, and 
get calmed down before we start. It will be a 
pleasant sight, seeing you two standing up 
hymn-singing, after the way you've been carry- 
ing on." 

However, when fifteen minutes later the 
party started off down the mountain side, the 
two boys looked like perfect models. Hi was 
allowed to sit on the front seat with pa; Jim, 
Azalea and Mrs. McBirney sat behind. Ma 
wore her one white dress and her black bonnet 
with the green ribbon, and Azalea had on her 
new white dress with the cat stitching in blue; 
and her white hat with its blue ribbons was the 
very hat of hats for her to wear. Pa McBirney 
felt secretly proud of his family, but it wouldn't 
have been his way to give them a notion of that. 
However, ma, who knew most of the things that 
pa thought, could tell that he was well pleased. 
He showed Hi all the landmarks the little 
broken branches that looked like two birds sit- 



THE SINGING 125 

ting side by side on a gaunt live-oak limb that 
reached over their path; the " cannon," a huge 
prone log which had once fallen across the road, 
and had been sawed in such a manner that it 
looked like a gigantic gun ready to be fired at 
them; the " haunted house " where a family of 
white-faced, queer folk lived, who ran in and 
drew down the shades when they saw anyone 
coming; and the " spy glass," a curious opening 
through miles of woodland, through which a 
person could look down the mountain side and 
away across the valley, where the cotton and the 
corn grew in their rich fields and the silver 
streams wound in and out. 

" I tell you, we that live in a place like this 
are likely to forget our blessings," remarked 
Mr. McBirney. " Every way you turn, it's 
sightly and a comfort to the eye. If I had to live 
where it was all dirt and noise and folks crowd- 
ing on top of one another, seems like I'd want to 
die." 

"Wouldn't you, just!" murmured ma 
sympathetically. 

" But here we are, off pleasuring, on as pretty 
a day as God ever dropped down on his foot- 
stool." 



126 AZALEA 

Ma agreed with him, and began to " tune up," 
as pa put it, humming under her breath. She 
had her old song book in her hand the book 
with the square notes, such as the mountain 
people always used at their " singings." She 
explained to Azalea that the shape of the notes 
indicated their names. For example, no matter 
what key " do " might be in, it could be told for 
" do " by its shape. " Sol " would have another 
shape; "re" yet another. In this manner no 
one need be confused by four or even six sharps. 

" And it's a custom with us, Azalea," she 
explained, "to sing the tune through by note 
first. After we've done that, and everybody has 
got the tune fixed in his head, so to speak, we go 
through and sing the words." 

" You'll have to tell Hi about the singing," 
said Azalea. 

" It seems mighty queer to me how you-all 
don't know about singings," ma replied. " It 
ain't nothing but all the folks getting together 
and singing. They do it once a year you know 
come from all over the countryside. There 
now, look yonder! See them wagons coming 
from all parts? They're all off for Rutherford 
Plain where the old Friendly Meeting House 



THE SINGING 127 

is. That was built before the war, all of great 
oak beams and boards, and it don't belong to no 
one denomination, but folks of whatever belief 
meet there and give praise and worship." 

"Ain't it nice?" sighed Azalea contentedly. 
It was very sweet to her to be riding along there, 
the daughter of people who were so much 
thought of as the McBirneys she who had 
been a wanderer, and often a hungry, neglected 
child, in clothes she was ashamed of, and the 
companion of people she had been unable to 
respect. Everyone had a pleasant word for Ma 
and Pa McBirney, and almost everyone seemed 
to know about her and to ask if she was their 
new daughter. They said they were pleased to 
meet her, and when they knew about Hi and 
the McBirneys were quick to tell they said 
they were pleased to meet him too, and that 
they'd like mighty well to do him a good turn if 
the chance offered. There was so much talking 
of this kind to do, that after all, Hi did not get 
his description of the singing, and it was only 
when he had reached the grove around Friendly 
Church that he began to understand what a 
happy occasion it really was. 

Wagons by the twenties stood about, their 



iz8 AZALEA 

horses unhitched and tied beneath the trees. 
Men, women and children were gathered in 
groups, talking and laughing. The heavy 
barred doors of the old church were swung 
wide, and the ivy and crimson creeper peeped in 
at its open windows. The boys helped pa un- 
hitch and were ready when the deep-toned bell 
sounded, to go with the others into the church. 

The bare yet homely interior was stained a 
deep reddish brown by time, and the wide- 
swung casements let in the sky of the fair sum- 
mer day. Elder Miles stood in the pulpit for a 
few minutes, to ask a blessing on the gathering, 
and then a hook-nosed, slender, restless old man 
with a voice like a silver trumpet got up and 
called for volunteers for the first singing. He 
said he thought it would be better to have the 
middle-aged folks at the first table, so to speak, 
and that the young folks could wait for second 
helping. 

With that, men and women arose in various 
parts of the room and went forward. Their 
weather-colored, work-worn faces were lighted 
with smiles as they went down the aisle, nodding 
to acquaintances shyly, and taking their places 
in the seats which had been arranged just below 



THE SINGING 129 

the pulpit. There seemed to be no need to inquire 
which was soprano, alto, tenor or bass. They 
had met together for years, and knew each 
other's voices well. There were only two who 
hesitated as if not quite sure where to go, and 
Azalea, seeing them, was surprised to see that it 
was Mrs. Carson and a tall handsome man, with 
a touch of gray in his hair, whom she took at 
once to be Carin's father. The hook-nosed man 
came forward to inquire politely as to their 
voices, and after shaking hands with them, 
placed them among the sopranos and the tenors. 
Then a fresh-faced young woman seated her- 
self at the organ, and in a moment the chorus of 
voices broke on Azalea's ear. It was not the 
way she had expected it to be that music. It 
was sad, although full of worship and trust. 
The voices wavered curiously, and seemed to 
flutter on the notes something as a flag flutters 
in the wind. Perhaps the alto and the bass were 
a little too strong for the more musical parts ; but 
at any rate, at first, the little girl was disap- 
pointed. Then, someway, she began to like it. 
She felt the tears come stinging to her eyes, 
though she could not have told why, and a lump 
gathered in her throat. She forgot the men and 



1 30 AZALEA 

women and the haggard old meeting house, for- 
got the sound of the pines without and the hum- 
ming of the bees; and she seemed for a moment 
- a wonderful moment to be in mid-air like 
a bird, and to hear a strange, sad, holy song com- 
ing up to her from men and women who toiled, 
and hoped, and loved, and suffered, down on the 
earth. 

Some one offered her a hymn book, and the 
strange moment passed, and she was able to fol- 
low the hymns. They had noble words to them, 
and her heart seemed to grow bigger as she read 
them. Such words suited her fed something 
in her that was hungry and cried for food. She 
began to understand why it was that Pa and Ma 
McBirney were so good. They had been taught 
these words from the time that they were chil- 
dren. They had grown up with these beautiful 
thoughts in their hearts. 

After a time the young people were called for, 
and the older ones took their seats. The young 
wives went and their brown-faced husbands, 
and the fresh-faced, wistful girls, and the boys 
with their bright eyes. Azalea loved to look at 
them, they seemed so strong and contented. She 
liked the bright frocks of the girls, and the way 



THE SINGING 131 

their hair was braided, and though she tried to 
think of other things, she fell to picturing a 
green lawn frock she would have some day 
when she made money for herself, and the 
figured sash green leaves on a white ground 
- she would wear with it. 

Just then, the man who was sitting next 
Azalea arose and went over by the window, and 
a moment later some one slipped down into the 
place he had left and gave Azalea's hand a 
squeeze. Azalea turned her head as quick as a 
frightened bird, and there sat Carin Carson, 
smiling at her as if they were old friends. 

" I was so glad when I saw you here," she 
whispered. " Isn't it a pity they don't ask the 
children to sing? I just love to sing, don't 
you?" 

Azalea shook her head. She had sung many 
a time for the people who came to the show, 
but she had hated the silly songs she was made 
to sing, and as she thought of them now she 
blushed. 

" I don't believe I really can sing," she 
whispered back. " I could once, but my voice 
is spoiled. I sang too loud, and now it's all 
rough and horrid." 



132 AZALEA 

" I don't believe it," returned her friend. 
" Your voice is so pleasant when you speak that 
I don't see how it can be horrid when you sing. 
I'm to have a singing teacher come to the house 
twice a week, and I wish you'd come down some 
time and have her hear you. Perhaps you sing 
a great deal better than you think you do." 

" No, no," whispered Azalea, shaking her 
head. " I do everything wrong! " 

Carin laughed under her breath and gave her 
friend's hand another squeeze. She was think- 
ing that Azalea was the prettiest girl in the 
place, but she had been taught that it was not 
nice to pay people compliments, and so she said 
nothing of what was in her mind. But she de- 
cided that she would enjoy Azalea's society for 
that day, and when the singing adjourned for 
the people to eat their lunch, Carin insisted that 
the McBirneys and her people should eat 
together. So, by dint of urging and introducing, 
she finally had the pleasure of seeing her father 
and mother and Mr. and Mrs. McBirney seated 
together beneath the shade of some glorious 
tulip trees, spreading their luncheons dut on one 
table cloth. 

Mr. and Mrs. Carson were people who had 



THE SINGING 133 

traveled in many foreign places, and had heard 
and seen much that was most beautiful and 
wonderful in the world, but their ways were so 
simple and hearty that neither Mary nor 
Thomas McBirney felt abashed with them. In 
fact, the Carsons were ignorant of many things 
in the country round about them, and they asked 
questions as if they were children. The McBir- 
neys answered them politely, though they really 
couldn't help wondering how it was that such 
learned people didn't know ginseng when they 
saw it, or that they hadn't heard about the asbes- 
tos mines in the neighborhood, or didn't under- 
stand how to trap the rabbits that spoiled the 
gardens. 

Azalea was fascinated with the free ways all 
these Carsons had. They seemed to say what- 
ever came into their heads, and they laughed 
outright in such a hearty and happy way that 
those who heard them had to laugh too. Mr. 
Carson kept running through the hymn tunes 
he had heard, though he did it in a quiet, charm- 
ing way, not at all as if he wished to attract 
attention, but as if he felt himself among friends 
who would allow him to follow his impulses. 
He was, of course, different from all of the other 



134 AZALEA 

men there, yet he had a way of making it seem 
as if they did him a favor when they were 
friendly with him, and Azalea heard him 
heartily thanking the hook-nosed man Mr. 
Pickett, his name was for having asked him 
and Mrs. Carson to sing. 

" I never quite had a chance to sing as much 
as I wanted to," he said laughingly. " I sing 
when I get up, and when I'm in my bath tub, 
and when I walk and when I ride. If my wife 
would let me I'd sing at the table, particularly 
when I see my favorite kind of custard pie com- 
ing on but though I've done my best, I've not 
had my sing out yet." 

" Well, if you live down this way long 
enough, sir," answered Mr. Pickett, " we'll try 
to satisfy you yet." 

Mr. Pickett said there would be quite a long 
recess before the singing " took up " again, so 
Azalea and Carin wandered away in the woods 
together. Azalea couldn't help feeling just a 
trifle awkward and shy with this graceful girl, 
whose clothes seem to move with a mysterious 
rustle, and who was like a flower, giving out 
faint odors of violet as she walked. Her laugh 
was gay, but soft, and every word she spoke 



THE SINGING 135 

seemed to have another accent than that to 
which Azalea was used. Azalea wondered how 
she could be so well pleased with a simple girl 
like herself, and with all these hard-working 
folk, and she tried to say something of the kind, 
but she could find no fit words. So they talked 
about the woods, and about the sort of picnics 
they liked, and about how afraid they were 
or weren't of thunder storms. 

As they went on, they came to a beautiful hol- 
low in the woods. There was soft, very green 
grass in the bottom of this cup-shaped place, 
and ferns and delicate vines grew on the sides. 

"What a lovely, lovely place!" cried Carin, 
clasping her hands. " Fit for the fairy queen, 
isn't it, Azalea?" 

"Do you believe in fairies?" asked Azalea 
almost indignantly. 

" Believe in them? " repeated Carin. " I 
believe in whatever I want to believe in. Don't 
you think it's fun to believe in fairies? " 

" What's the use of believing in a thing that 
isn't true?" 

" Oh, well," said Carin, sighing, as if she 
found it rather hard to bridge the distance 
between Azalea's mind and her own, " some 



136 AZALEA 

thoughts are for use and some are for fun. My 
shoes are for use, but my gold beads are for fun. 
Ideas are like that too. I know the earth turns 
over and makes day and night; I play there are 
fairies just to suit myself. It's like trimming on 
a dress thoughts of that kind. You like trim- 
ming on a dress, don't you, Azalea? " 

But Azalea's answer was a low cry. 

"Don't move, Carin! Don't move! Oh, 
Carin, the snake! " 

Carin looked and saw. Before her, coiled 
and ready for its wicked spring, was a snake 
with a gleaming, splendid skin, green and 
brown and iridescent tints, in diamond shaped 
pattern, and on the summer air was a dry, curi- 
ous rattle that told both the girls its alarming 
story. Carin said nothing for the second or two 
in which she realized her danger, and she seemed 
only to half hear Azalea's sharp cry: 

" Now, jump to one side, Oh, quick! " 

But she had no time to obey, for at that instant, 
a shot rang on the air, and the wicked head of 
the serpent drooped. 

" Oh, Oh! " screamed Azalea, more terrified 
now that the danger was over than she had been 
before. And " Oh," sighed Carin softly, and 



THE SINGING 137 

slid down to the ground and sat there, very 
white, with one hand to her lips. 

" It's all right, honey bird, all right," cried a 
voice near them. " That there sarpent can't do 
you no manner of harm now. You jest sit still a 
minute or two and get over your scare, and then 
I'll escort you back to your folks." 

Carin and Azalea both turned and looked into 
the eyes of a wonderful old man looked into 
eyes, large, dark, and soft, half hidden beneath 
bushy eyebrows, and set beneath a beetling brow. 
His hair was iron-gray, curling and thick, and 
it stood up on his head in such a way as to make 
him look two or three inches taller than he 
really was, and that was quite unnecessary, for 
he stood, as he was quick to declare, six feet and 
four inches in his stocking feet. He was very 
thin, and when he walked he seemed on the 
point of falling to pieces, because he had what 
is known as double joints, so that his arms and 
legs swung about in almost any way he wished 
to have them, and his head turned about with 
wonderful ease on his long neck. 

He stooped now and it was an amazing 
thing to see him do it and picked up a fiddle 
which he had laid against the trunk of a tree. 



138 AZALEA 

" It certainly was a mighty 'convenient thing, 
having that gun along," he said. " Old brother 
sarpent, he never would have waited for me to 
get after him with a stick. A bullet was the only 
thing that could put him out of business, and I 
wa'n't sure I could hit him at that distance - 
couldn't have, I reckon, if the case hadn't been 
so pressing." 

Carin got up and ran toward him with her 
hands outstretched. 

" Thank you! Thank you, sir! " she said, in 
that pretty eager way of hers. " I know what 
you've done for me, and I must take you to see 
my papa and mamma. Why, it was wonderful! 
I'll never forget it as long as I live." 

" Steady on, steady on," said the man. 
" Knocking the head off a tarnation rascal like 
that is no new business with me. Glad, though, 
to have served you, little miss." 

He bowed low, and the girls watched him, 
fascinated. 

" I didn't hear you playing this morning, sir," 
went on Carin. " Weren't you in at the Sing- 
ing? I should think they'd love to have you 
play." 

" My innings are coming, Miss Honey Bird." 



THE SINGING 139 

replied the man smiling. " There ain't been a 
singing at Friendly Church for thirty years that 
hain't had old Haystack Thompson there, a fid- 
dling. But I was late getting here to-day. I've 
been farming it away up on Rabbit Nose Moun- 
tain, and I had to hoof it down here. I started 
early enough, but I got lazy like and laid down 
and dozed off. When I woke, the sun was high 
overhead and I just piked along, but even then 
I found myself late." 

" You will play, though, won't you, sir? " 

" You bet I will, Miss Honey Bird. And I 
pray the Lord will keep a guard over my bow 
and hold it down to hymn tunes. If so be, that 
thar bow should get Old Nick in it, as I've 
known it to do afore now, I might have the 
whole kit and boodle footing the Highland fling 
or the Virginia reel right there on the floor of 
the meeting house." 

Carin laughed merrily. 

" Oh, do come along quick and meet papa," 
she said. " You'll be such good friends." She 
ran ahead in her eagerness, urging " Haystack 
Thompson " to follow. 

It had not been necessary for her to ask why 
he had this curious name, for she knew very 



140 AZALEA 

well that it had been given to him because of his 
wild crop of hair, which did indeed look like a 
stack of hay after a bad windstorm. 

" I'd no idea that Azalea and I had come so 
far," she said to her new friend. " We 
wandered on and on, talking, and when we came 
to that lovely hollow we couldn't keep out of it." 

They were getting to the clearing, and they 
could see the people moving toward the church. 
Mr. Thompson caught a glimpse of Mr. Pickett, 
and the two musicians greeted each other like 
long-lost brothers, and walked toward the meet- 
ing house in great enthusiasm, making an odd 
pair, for Mr. Pitckett, for all of his air of 
importance, reached no higher than Mr. 
Thompson's shoulder. Carin found her father 
just as he was going in the door and dragged 
him back to meet her new acquaintance; and 
a moment later, everyone had seen " Old Hay- 
stack" and was clamoring for his music. Mr. 
Thompson was given the post of honor, and 
there he stood, towering up toward the pointed 
roof, his faded fiddle in his hand, tears in his 
eyes, smiling at his old friends. 

He tuned up carefully, and ran his bow lov- 
ingly across the string a few times, then gave a 



THE SINGING 141 

shake to the " haystack " and began to play " Old 
Hundred." At first it was as if a deep voice, 
full of love of God and life were singing; then 
as if a chorus of children's voices sang it in joy; 
then as if the wind called it .to the sea and the 
sea answered; then as if the hills shouted it and 
the voices of all living things joined in. 

Carin found herself on her feet found her- 
self, indeed, wishing that she could fly. For a 
moment it seemed as if she were flying, but when 
she looked about her, she saw that she was not, 
but was standing singing at the top of her lungs 
with all the others. And then for an hour, while 
the tall, gaunt fiddler drew his music from his 
instrument, and the people followed him as if 
they had one voice, Carin forgot everything in 
the world except the music. But suddenly it 
ended. The fiddler played some minor theme 
which no one knew, and which was born in his 
brain that moment. All the people took it for 
the note of parting and filed out of the church. 
And once out, they seemed in little mood to talk. 
They had been too deeply moved for that. They 
preferred to get in their vehicles and drive off 
into the silence of the lonely mountain roads. 
Carin, certainly, was glad that she could snuggle 



142 AZALEA 

in the back seat of their surrey with her mother, 
and sit there in quiet. She was strangely tired, 
and wanted nothing in the world except to rest, 
and she thought, in the back of her mind, that 
probably Azalea was feeling the same way. 
That made her wonder how it was that she had 
not seen Azalea after they all went back into 
the church, and she was just going to speak to 
her mother about it, when Mrs. McBirney came 
running toward them with a white face. 

" We can't find Azalea anywhere," she cried. 
" We've looked everywhere pa and Jim and 
Hi, and Mr. Pickett and lots of others. We 
can't find her anywhere! " 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE KIDNAPPING 

" Why, she can't be far away," cried Carin, 
trembling in spite of herself. " I'm sure I can 
find her, Mrs. McBirney. Where's Mr. 
Thompson? He'll go with me back to the place 
where we were together. She came after us for 
a way, I know. I thought she followed the 
whole way, but the singing was just beginning, 
and I ran in the church, not noticing." 

" Of course we'll find her, Mrs. McBirney," 
Mr. Carson declared stoutly. "The child 
couldn't get lost in a clearing like this." 

" Perhaps she lit out," drawled a mountain 
woman who was standing near. " You can't tell 
what a girl brought up to lead a wandering life 
might do. Tramps like that ain't to be depended 
on to keep to roof and hearth." 

Mary McBirney turned toward the woman 
with flashing eyes. 

" My Azalea wouldn't do anything to make 
me trouble, ma'am," she said. " She's got a 

143 



144 AZALEA 

heart of gold. Something has happened - 
that's the whole of it something has hap- 
pened." 

Carin had sped in search of Mr. Thompson, 
and having found him, the two set off in the 
woods in search of the dell. " Haystack's " hair 
seemed to tower higher than ever, and his green 
felt cover was half off his violin, and dangled 
among the bushes as the two hastened through 
the wood. In Carin's heart was the terrible 
thought of the rattlesnake. What if the mate to 
the one Mr. Thompson had killed had stung 
Azalea! But why, then, had she not cried out? 
It was past imagining. Mr. Thompson took 
Carin's hand in his that they might go faster, 
and the two hastened on through the sun-flecked 
wood till they came to the beautiful hollow with 
the soft green grass. But they could see nothing 
of Azalea, and their calls and halloos brought 
no answer. 

" We must try another tack," said Mr. 
Thompson. " Something queer about this 
something mighty queer." 

So all the neighbors seemed to think. The 
news that Azalea was missing had spread 
rapidly. It had overtaken the departing wagon- 



THE KIDNAPPING 145 

loads of neighbors, who returned to lend their 
assistance to their distressed neighbors. Par- 
ties ran out in all directions, scouring the woods, 
calling, peeping into the old well, and visiting 
the near-by houses. No one had seen or heard 
anything of the girl. 

" You don't think she'd go into hiding, sister 
McBirney," inquired good old Elder Mills, 
with sympathy in his eye. " She didn't seem 
like that sort of a girl, but she might have taken 
offense at something when no offense was meant. 
Young folks are like that, sometimes. I ran 
away from a good home twice when I was a boy, 
because my feelings were so precious tender. 
Great fools young folks are! And the worst of 
it is, they don't all grow out of their folly when 
they get older." 

Mrs. McBirney stood there among her neigh- 
bors and cast her eye first on this group and then 
on that. 

" I must say it clear and plain," she said in 
her pleasant voice ; " I trust that girl like I would 
my own son here. She loves me and I love her, 
and we're heart to heart. She's in some kind of 
trouble, and I reckon I know what it is." 

"What?" demanded twenty voices. 



146 AZALEA 

" Them show people has stole her. They said 
they would, and they waited till we was off the 
watch, and took their chance." 

" Why, ma," said Thomas McBirney, 
" they've been gone weeks and weeks. They had 
about all they wanted of this community." 

" They must have come back then," answered 
Mrs, McBirney with gentle obstinacy, " for 
they've gone and took my girl." 

The words faltered in her throat, and Jimmy, 
who was watching her, ran to her and slipped 
his arms about her. It was the first time that his 
mother had realized that he was not a little boy. 
She found in that moment of sorrow that by 
bowing her head, she could weep on his sturdy 
young shoulder, and that he seemed strong to 
comfort her. 

Hi Kitchell drew near, his eyes shining in a 
face that was white beneath all his tan. 

" Zalie didn't run away," he said in his rather 
gruff voice, which was changing from a boy's 
to a man's, and was now in his throat and now in 
his head. " You can't make me think Zalie ran 
away. She wouldn't do such a mean thing." 

" I'm sure she wouldn't, Hi," broke in the soft 
tones of Mrs. Carson. " She was too kind and 



THE KIDNAPPING 147 

too happy. I think we'd better drive home, each 
going our proper way, watching out on every 
side for her, and get the sheriff to send word to 
all the towns round about. If the show people 
have taken her, it ought to be an easy matter to 
find her, for the show is bound to go to the 
towns." 

" Yes, yes," broke in her husband. " Let's do 
something! I can't stand this waiting around, 
not knowing what may be happening to the poor 
child. Mr. Pickett tells me he'll have every 
inch of woods for a radius of two miles around, 
searched by some of these young men. So we 
may leave that quite in his hands. But he thinks, 
and I think, that the child has been carried 
away. He said he heard the show people kept 
making their threats. They heard of the Sing- 
ing, and judged that Azalea would be here and 
that it was their chance." 

" We ought to have cared for her better," 
moaned Ma McBirney. " Thomas, I blame my- 
self for not looking after her better." 

" Well, Mary, you'll have to do all the blam- 
ing yourself then, for nobody else will do it. 
We've set ourselves to war against the children 



148 AZALEA 

of Satan, and they've been more wily than we 
took them to be. That's all there is to it." 

A light rain had begun to fall and the glory 
of the day was quite gone as the people turned 
from the grove around Friendly Church and 
moved off along the six roads that debouched 
from that gathering place. 

Carin looked sadly from the little window in 
the curtains of their surrey, and wondered what 
strange thing could be happening to her friend. 
Though several hours had passed since she was 
lost, and though at least two hundred persons 
had joined in the search for her, and she had 
not been found, still, Carin found it impossible 
to realize that anything could have happened to 
the laughing girl who had run with her through 
the woods to the green dell. 

Usually Carin liked to ride in the rain. It was 
fun to cuddle down beneath the robes, in the 
dusk of the curtained carriage, and " play." 
Carin knew how to play much more delightful 
things without toys than with them. She had 
only to begin pretending that she was a princess 
who was being stolen and carried into the desert; 
or that she was a missionary traveling over the 
Himalayas; or a pirate's daughter, going to hide 



THE KIDNAPPING 149 

treasure; or any other of a hundred things, to 
have a beautiful time. One of her favorite " pre- 
tends " had been that about the stolen princess. 
But the story had come true in a way, and Carin 
found it was not nearly so amusing as she had 
thought it would be. 

The rain grew heavier and the sky sulkier, and 
when they reached home, it was chilly and 
almost dark. To be sure the great house was 
lighted up, and a fire was burning in the living 
room, and a delicious supper was spread. But 
these things did not bring as much comfort as 
usual. Mrs. Carson had insisted that the Mc- 
Birneys should not climb the mountain that 
night. 

" You'll only have to come down in the morn- 
ing," she said. " Spend the night with us. 
We'll telephone the sheriff and get him up here; 
and we'll telegraph all the surrounding towns, 
and you'll be right here to help and advise." 

" But there's the stock," objected Thomas 
McBirney. " I can't leave the poor dumb beasts 
hungering and thirsting." 

" Hi and me'll look after them, pa," said Jim. 
1 You just let us take the horses, and we'll ride 
up there and 'tend to things." 



150 AZALEA 

" 'Deed we will," agreed Hi. " The only 
trouble is, I ought to be at the mill in the morn- 
ing. They'll be looking for me." 

Hi spoke as if the mill would shut down if he 
didn't get there on time, and Mr. Carson 
couldn't conceal a smile. He liked Hi's import- 
ant businesslike ways and his fashion of taking 
responsibility. So he answered gravely: 

" Allow me to call up the manager of the mill 
the first thing in the morning, Hi, and apprise 
him of the situation. I may be able to get him 
at breakfast, so that he'll know just what to ex- 
pect before he reaches the office." 

It seemed a reasonable arrangement to Hi, 
and he hadn't the faintest notion of the smiles of 
his elders. So, mounted on the bare backs of the 
McBirney horses, the boys set out to ride up the 
mountain in the rain. Each wore an old rain- 
coat which Mr. Carson had fished up from 
somewhere about the house, and each carried a 
lantern. 

" It certainly looks mighty lonely to me for 
them boys to start off up that mountain alone," 
sighed Pa McBirney. " But I couldn't endure 
it to think of the stock going unfed." 

" You don't suppose those dreadful people 



THE KIDNAPPING 151 

will get after Hi, too, do you? " Carin whispered 
to her mother. Mrs. Carson started and looked 
troubled. 

" I declare Carin, I don't know. I'm all at 
sea. I've read of things like this, but nothing of 
the sort ever came into my life before, and I can't 
more than half believe it." 

" That's just the way I feel, mamma. There's 
a ring at the doorbell. Perhaps it's the sheriff." 

It was the sheriff, Mr. James Coulter, a heavy 
man with small eyes and a square jaw, and with 
him was Haystack Thompson. 

" You'll have to excuse me for coming along," 
Haystack apologized. " But I'm in this hunt to 
stay. Life's been lagging along pretty slow with 
me lately and now here something comes that 
looks to me like a man's work, and I'll be plum- 
basted, if I don't want a hand in it." 

Thomas McBirney held out his hand. 

" You always was one for adventures, Mr. 
Thompson," he said, with emotion in his voice. 
" We're grateful for your help." 

So they sat together, planning and scheming, 
till Carin fell asleep on the sofa, and the oil 
burned out of the lamps. The rain fell heavier 
and heavier and blew in gusts against the pane. 



AZALEA 

And when Carin staggered up to bed with the 
help of Mammy Thula, it seemed to her as if all 
the pleasant things had stopped happening 
and only trouble was at hand. 

Very much the same sort of an idea was lying 
in the bottom of Ma McBirney's mind, though 
she tried to answer cheerfully when her Thomas 
spoke to her, and she said her prayers as if she 
had perfect faith that they were to be answered. 
But the truth was, she was too worried just then 
to have much faith. She imagined the frightful 
things that might be happening to her poor 
Azalea, and she realized more than ever how 
dear the child had become to her, and how she 
loved her merry ways and her odd turns of mind, 
and her way of acting as if the world was hers. 
But, more than that Oh, much more than that 
just at that particular moment, was her anxiety 
for her own James Stuart. What was her boy 
doing just then, she wondered. The rain was 
simply threshing against the pane, and she knew 
in what torrents it would pour down the moun- 
tain side, ripping new gulleys for itself and 
deepening the old ones. It was black as only 
night and cloud can make the world, and the 
horses would be wearied and fretted. 



THE KIDNAPPING 153 

" I doubt we were right in letting those poor 
boys go up the mountain to-night, Thomas," she 
said, just as the good Pa McBirney was sinking 
into slumber. " We might better have let the 
creatures go hungry for a while than to risk the 
lives of those boys." 

" Go to sleep, Mary," commanded Mr. Mc- 
Birney in a sleepy voice. " I've got to have my 
night's rest." And indeed, he seemed to be be- 
ginning it before he had finished his sentence, 
for the next moment above all the clamor and 
uproar of the gale, ma could hear his steady and 
wholesome snore. 

But she lay awake, turning this way and that, 
creeping out of bed to look from the window, 
where nothing could be seen but this latter 
deluge, and then huddling in again, praying for 
the three wandering children. 

And as a matter of fact, prayers could not 
come amiss for any of them that night. And 
really, her own freckled Jim needed them rather 
more than the two she had taken under her 
motherly wing. For James Stuart McBirney 
encountered that night one of the greatest 
dangers of his short but interesting career. The 
two drenched boys had urged their horses up the 



154 AZALEA 

slippery mountain road, and the horses had 
plunged on, half blinded by the storm. The 
way had been difficult, but all had gone well 
enough till they came to the falls where Jim 
had, several weeks before, shown Hi his mill 
and dam. The fall was roaring down the moun- 
tain side, and the boys had no choice but to 
cross the swollen torrent as it foamed and 
writhed across the roadway. In fair weather 
this was a safe enough crossing, and Jim loved 
it beyond any words of his to say. He would 
pause here while his horse drank, and he him- 
self would sit staring at the dream-like valley, 
thinking vague and happy thoughts. But to- 
night, as he was to learn, the great boulders that 
had been placed at the outer edge of the road 
had been carried away, and the black water was 
an enemy the water which had so often been 
his playmate. Midstream, he felt his horse 
slipping. 

" Mac! " he called sharply, slapping the ani- 
mal encouragingly, " Mac! Pull up! " 

But Mac, it seemed, could not pulPap, though 
he tried desperately. His feet went out from 
under him, and he lay on his side, with the 
waters raging about him and bearing him 



THE KIDNAPPING 155 

toward that desperate edge. Once over that, 
they would drop sheer one hundred and fifty feet 
upon jagged rocks where the waters twisted and 
hissed like angry serpents. Fortunately, Mac 
had not gone down quickly, but after a struggle, 
and Jim had had time to free himself from the 
stirrups. He stood there in the flood now, with 
the frantic horse between him and that deadly 
fall. The bridle reins were still in his hands, 
and he held to them with the instinct of the 
born horseman, though what a slender boy could 
do with a frightened horse in a raging torrent, 
it is not easy to imagine. Jim felt both of them 
going, and said to himself: " One second more 
and I'll let old Mac go and get out of this 
if I can! " when suddenly the great body of the 
horse caught and held. Jim felt that the animal 
was bracing himself against something strong 
and firm, and he let go the reins to escape the 
plunging hoofs. But the next moment, freed 
from the horse's sustaining back, he found him- 
self swept from his feet and caught in the ter- 
rible swirl of the waters. Then, for the first 
time, he screamed "Hi! Hi!" though he 
knew there was small chance that Hi could hear 
him. And at that instant, a terrible thought 



156 AZALEA 

flashed over his mind. What if Hi had not been 
able to cross the ford! What if he, too, had gone 
down ! 

"Hi! Hi!" shouted Jim in his throat. A 
thousand wicked voices of the storm answered 
him; the cruel hands of the flood clutched him. 
He swept on, closed his eyes, and in his terrified, 
dry little mind thought: 

" I reckon that's about all of me! " 

And then, somehow, miraculously, he too was 
caught and held. True, the waters were pound- 
ing him, he was smothering with the spray, but 
at least he was not being tossed over the brink. 
He thrust out desperate hands and clutched the 
obstruction. It was a tree in full leaf, which had 
been swept from the upper fall and had some- 
how snarled there on the rocks. It was what 
had saved Mac, and at the end of a frightened, 
determined struggle, Jim, standing ankle deep, 
in the red mud of the road, knew that it had 
saved him too. And there, at his hand, tremb- 
ling, but safe, was good old Mac. 

It seemed strange to Jim that his throat could 
be so dry when his very skin was soaking and 
the heavens were emptying torrents all about 



THE KIDNAPPING 157 

him, but it was all he could do to shriek out: 
"Hi! Oh, Hi!" 

No voice answered. " He's gone," sobbed 
Jim. " He's gone over the fall! Oh, what shall 
I do?" 

But just then above the road came a sharp 
voice in his ears. 

" Shut up there, ninny! I'm here all right." 

"Where? Where?" 

" Where you'll step on me if you don't watch 
out. I guess my arm's broke, Jim. Nannie 
went down at the ford, but she got out and ran 
away from me. Piked for home, I guess. I hit 
something, and crawled out, and then I sort o' 
went to sleep. One arm's acting funny it 
won't work." 

" Oh, Hi," cried Jim, " never mind if your 
arm is broke; that can be mended. But if you'd 
gone over " 

" No glue would mend me then," answered 
Hi. He struggled to his feet, and the two boys 
went on in the darkness. They left Mac to 
plunge up the road as best suited him. Both 
had cast away their lanterns after the rain and 
wind had put out the light, and they tramped on 
in the blur of mist which told them that they 



158 AZALEA 

were in the very heart of a cloud. Sometimes 
Hi could not keep back a groan, though he tried 
manfully. 

" You just brace up, Hi, you hear? " said Jim 
with affectionate roughness. " You're in luck 
to only break one bone. My goodness, what's 
one bone when you've hundreds of 'em in your 
body?" 

Hi set his strong white teeth together and 
trudged on. The way seemed like an endless bad 
dream. But finally he heard Jim say: " We're 
here." And they were. They were in the good 
dry cabin, and Hi had sunk on the settle while 
Jim lighted the lamps and lit the fire. That 
done, he went out to the horse shed and came 
back with the cheering news that both horses 
were in their stalls. 

" And now," he said, " let's see what we can 
do about your arm. I know there's arnica in 
the house." 

"Arnica!" cried Hi in anguished contempt. 
" Do you think rubbing will do that any good? " 
He dangled the limp lower arm before Jim's 
horrified gaze. 

" No," said a gruff voice, " rubbing won't 



THE KIDNAPPING 159 

help it none, but setting will, and I'm the man 
to do it for you." 

The boys turned as quick as owls, and there, 
standing in the doorway was a tall, dripping 
man in homespun mountain clothes. 

"Why, Buck Bab!" cried Jim, "Where did 
you come from? " 

Hi's eyes started from his head. 

" Ain't you the man that chased me with a gun 
the other night? " he asked. 

Bab wrung the rain out of his hair and grinned 
at Hi. 

" Maybe I am," he said, " and maybe I ain't. 
But one thing's certain: I'm going to set that 
there arm of yours, son." To Jim he said, 
" You go find me a shingle. Rip one off the 
house if you can't do any other way, and I'll 
take the liberty of tearing up one of your ma's 
old sheets." He bustled about the cabin getting 
everything in readiness, and then he came over 
to Hi, smiling curiously. 

" 'Twon't be very bad," he said almost ten- 
derly. He stooped over him and seemed to tap 
him gently on the jaw somewhere below the ear. 
Jim couldn't make out what was going on. Sud- 
denly Hi seemed to be asleep, and he was mak- 



160 AZALEA 

ing no objection at all as Buck Bab's great hands 
busied themselves with drawing the broken arm 
from the coat and shirt that hampered them. 

"What have you done, Buck Bab!" de- 
manded Jim, thoroughly frightened. " What's 
the matter with Hi? " 

" Now, don't worry, McBirney," answered 
Bab gruffly. " I just fixed your friend so he 
wouldn't be inconvenienced by what I'm about 
to do. He's just taking a little nap to order. 
He'll be all right in a minute or two, and by 
that time I'll have his arm set as tight as a trap. 
You didn't want to hear his hollering and cry- 
ing, did you? " 

"No o," said Jim doubtfully. He drew 
nearer to his friend and stood there ready to 
give any help that Bab should need. 

In ten minutes it was all over. The arm was 
in place and held there safely with bandages 
and splints. Hi's wet clothes had been dragged 
from him and he had been wrapped in a warm 
blanket. His eyes began to flutter and a sick 
look to come into his white face. 

" Lie still," growled Bab to him, " and think 
of nothing. And you, McBirney, I suppose you 
come up here to look after the stock. Well, get 



THE KIDNAPPING 161 

out that lantern and find the milk pails, and I'll 
help you. After we've fixed up the animals, 
we'll get some supper." 

" Well," thought Jim to himself, as he obeyed 
the man, " who would believe it? I know pa 
wouldn't, and I don't believe ma would, though 
she always says there's some good in everybody. 
Buck Bab a moonshiner, and not denying it! 
And yet here he is, helping me out! It seems 
like a night with a lot of queer dreams in it. 
Oh, my! Poor Zalie! Oh, Zalie, where can 
you be ! " 



CHAPTER IX 

HAYSTACK THOMPSON 

Haystack Thompson lay in bed making un- 
complimentary remarks about the rain. 

" It's just took away the last chanct we had 
of following up that poor little mountain lass," 
said he to his old clock. " If it hadn't been for 
this tarnation storm I'd 'a' tramped back to that 
there dell where I come on them two lasses 
making eyes at that rattler, and it would have 
been mighty funny if I couldn't have found out 
something about what happened there." 

He reached out for his bag of tobacco, and 
filling his pipe and lighting it, tried to bring 
some cheer into his damp cabin by smoking very 
hard. 

" I'd have gone over the whole ground," he 
mused. " I'd 'a' pretended I was walking on 
with that nice little Miss Carin, talking and 
smiling; I'd thought out how the other lass hung 
behind, looking at the trees and flowers, and I'd 
never have give up till I made out why she 

162 



HAYSTACK THOMPSON 163 

didn't reach that church. But here we are, 
everything swept smooth as sandpaper with the 
storm! " 

He fell to wishing that for once in his life 
there was some one to build the fire for him and 
get the breakfast. 

" It's lonesome business," said he aloud, " be- 
ing pa and ma and all the children just by your- 
self. Looks hoggish, now, don't it? I wish I'd 
divided up and just been the man of the house, 
and let some other folks take the rest of the 
parts. I'm a no-count old fool, anyhow. No 
one but a plumb idiot would 'a' let that there 
girl be snatched away like that yesterday. A 
blamed, sapless old fool, that's what I be! Me 
with nothing but a fiddle to give me an excuse 
for living! For my farming would make you 
sick to look at. The neighbors snigger when 
they see it. Well, what do you think of that 
now, for a man to reach my age and have noth- 
ing but a fiddle that he cares for! " 

He flung out of bed in disgust, whipped into 
his old clothes, lighted the fire which pro- 
ceeded to smoke badly and got out his bacon 
and his bag of meal. 

" I'm just plumb tired of cooking alone," he 



1 64 AZALEA 

announced to a squirrel that paused for a mo- 
ment before his door, sitting erect on his 
haunches and casting a wistful glance from his 
bright eyes. Haystack tossed him some ground 
nuts which he kept in a bag for that purpose, 
and then turned angrily to his own meal. Half- 
way through it, he laid down his knife and fork, 
and a light broke over his face. 

" I know what I'll do," he said, " I'll go find 
that little lass. I'll make myself of some use, 
that's what I'll do. See here, Betsy," he went 
on, turning to his violin and speaking to it as 
if it were a little sister, " you and me'll start out 
and find that there poor lass, you hear? We've 
been playing stick-in-the-mud about long 
enough. What we need is to get a move on us 
and to go out and see something of the world. 
What you say, Bet? " 

Just then a log fell on the hearth, and from 
Betsy's answering strings came forth a delicate 
wail. Haystack took it to mean that they 
should go, and when he had made his cabin 
tidy and he took much more pains with it 
than usual he put on clean homespun, packed 
a change of clothing in a square of blue denim, 
fastened this to a stick which he threw over his 



HAYSTACK THOMPSON 165 

shoulder, and taking Betsy under the other arm, 
started out on a quest. 

At about the same time the sheriff at Lee 
and Pa McBirney and Mr. Carson and Elder 
Mills and Mr. Pickett and a great many other 
persons were bestirring themselves to the same 
end. They telegraphed here and they tele- 
phoned there, and all over the county the good 
neighbors were keeping an outlook. Ma Mc- 
Birney and Mrs. Carson kept together and 
talked over this and that phase of the matter, 
and both of them poured out their kind hearts in 
good wishes, as if their love would build a wall 
around the lost child to keep her from harm. 

" Let no evil touch her, dear Lord," prayed 
Mary McBirney over and over again. " Thy 
power is everywhere, and Thy love is all pro- 
tecting. Spread Thy love about her like a cloak 
and keep her from harm." 

And that was just about the time that Azalea, 
aroused from her thin and worried sleep by the 
first streaks of the dawn that streamed to her 
over the level low country, drew the dirty bed- 
clothes closer about her chin, and tried to make 
out whether or not it was all a bad dream. Tige, 
the bulldog, crouching there at the tent door, 



1 66 AZALEA 

and snarling if she but moved, certainly seemed 
like a nightmare. Betty Bowen with her 
frowsy head and her horrid red flannel bed- 
gown, sleeping with her mouth open on the 
shake-down next to Azalea, and the miserable 
old show wagon outside, with lumbering Rafe 
Bowen, the son of Betty, snoring in rivalry to 
the robins not that his opera in any way re- 
sembled theirs was something worse than or- 
dinary nightmare. 

" It isn't a dream," sighed Azalea, with deep, 
terrible conviction. " It's true." 

She went over the sharp little drama of all 
that had happened the day before; remembered 
the sweet hollow in the woods where she and 
Carin had gone, the fright they had had at the 
snake, the appearance of that queer, kind old 
Haystack Thompson; she remembered how she 
had followed them a little way, and then had 
stopped for some wake robins which were grow- 
ing in a sunny little spot and which she had 
thought would look lovely at Ma McBirneys' 
belt; and then had come the strange whimper- 
ing of an animal in pain. She had thought it a 
dog caught in a rabbit trap, and she had gone 
toward it, and as she went on, the sound seemed 



HAYSTACK THOMPSON 167 

to move too, and it grew more agonizing as if 
the animal were being tortured beyond anything 
it could stand. And then, suddenly, from among 
the great trees, had come Sisson, the " show- 
man," her old enemy. He had his huge hand 
over her mouth in a minute, and had pushed 
her before him, making her run against her will, 
and presently they were among all the old com- 
panions of her wandering years. Rafe Bowen, 
who had run away three years before, was back 
too. He was a big fellow with broad shoulders 
and a sullen face. And there was a new woman 
to take her mother's place, Azalea thought. 
They had laughed at her and told Sisson not to 
be too rough with her. 

" You treat her like she was a mad steer, 
Hank," Betty Bowen had said. " Don't scare 
the young un like that." 

Sisson let go of her and pushing her a little 
way from him broke into a roar of laughter. It 
made cold chills run over the girl. She knew 
that when Sisson laughed it was when some one 
else was in trouble. Nearly the only thing he 
really enjoyed was tormenting some one. 

" She ran out to meet me," he cried, roaring 
with that cruel laughter, his eyes full of evil 



1 68 AZALEA 

pleasure. "Just toddled out to meet me, she 
did. You never saw anything like it. Couldn't 
stay away from her old friend, Zalie couldn't. 
Once a show girl, always a show girl, eh? " 

Azalea had been learning lessons of self-con- 
trol since she had been with Mary McBirney, 
but now her old-time temper flamed up in her. 
She felt the familiar wave of fire sweeping 
across her brain and she screamed out angry 
things at Sisson. 

" I'm no show girl! " she protested. " I never 
wanted to be a show girl. I think you are 
wicked, wicked, Hank Sisson! You've taken 
me away from the best people I ever knew and 
they'll be so frightened! Oh, please, Mrs. 
Bowen, make him let me go. Oh, Hank Sisson 
I hate you! I hate you! Oh, why isn't my 
mamma alive? You wouldn't dare treat me 
like this if she was alive. You bad, bad man! " 

" You can see for yourself what a fine per- 
former she is," Sisson sneered. " High tragedy, 
that's her line." 

" Oh, Mrs. Bowen," wailed the girl, " mamma 
was good to you. Won't you help me? " 

" Turning on the tear taps now," grinned 
Sisson. 



HAYSTACK THOMPSON 169 

" Oh, shut up," snapped the new woman. 
"What did you expect the girl to do? Didn't 
think she'd rejoice, did you? Leave her be, you 
Sisson. You've got her, that's the main thing; 
now give her a chance to cool down a little. I'm 
sorry for the young un, that's what I am tak- 
ing her away from a good home to tag along 
with a lot like us ! " 

Sisson raised his heavy fist and made as if to 
strike the \voman. 

" You take your choice," he growled. " Shut 
up or be shut up." 

" While we're rowing around here, Hank," 
broke in Betty Bowen, " the folks will be after 
us. Do we carry out our plan, or don't we? " 

" We carry it out and we do it quick," an- 
nounced Sisson. Nor was Azalea long in rind- 
ing out what the plan was. Taking it for 
granted that as soon as Azalea was missed, the 
Sisson All Star Combination would be under 
suspicion, it was the intention of Sisson and his 
troupe to go on up into the mountains ; but Betty 
Bowen and her son Rafe were to take the best 
team of horses, and the wagon with its load of 
conveniences, hide by night in the woods, and 
then make their way before dawn into South 



170 AZALEA 

Carolina. The state line was not more than 
twelve miles from where they then were, and 
once across that, they were comparatively safe. 

This program had been carried out rapidly 
more rapidly, in fact, than was at first intended. 
Azalea was compelled to go in the old covered 
wagon and to lie down there under a pile of 
odds and ends. Betty sat beside her son Rafe 
and directed their course. They had struck an 
old wood-road, and wound along through the 
heart of a silent forest, meeting no one. So much 
more solitary was the road than they had sup- 
posed it would be that Betty urged her son to 
press on. The horses were young and strong - 
a new team which Azalea had not before seen 
and the result was that by twelve o'clock that 
night they had camped in an out-of-the-way 
grove across the line dividing the two Carolinas. 
The mountains were left behind, and an almost 
level plain stretched around them. But the un- 
derbrush in this grove of poor trees was thick, 
and as Betty intended to do her cooking at night 
and to show no smoke from her camp fire to 
curious strangers during the day, they felt that 
there was little danger of their being found. 

The rain that had drenched the valley of Lee 



HAYSTACK THOMPSON 171 

had thrown out no more than a light shower 
over the spot where the Bowens kept Azalea 
prisoner, and while the girl lay on her rickety 
bed wondering what had happened back at 
home, she did not dream of the wild experiences 
through which her friends Jim and Hi had been 
passing. It was not of them that she thought 
chiefly though she knew how they would be 
fuming about her and putting plans on foot for 
her recovery but of Ma McBirney and her 
anxiety. 

" I'm so used to having bad times," thought 
the little girl wrapping her arms tight about her 
body as if for company, " that I can stand them. 
But Ma McBirney isn't used to them. She'll 
just fret herself crazy." 

She had perfect confidence in the ability of 
her friends to find her. She had thought all that 
out in that strange, dangerous drive at night 
through the old wood-road. People like Pa Mc- 
Birney and Mr. Carson weren't the kind to give 
up hunting for her. 

" I've just got to lie low," thought this child 
who had seen too much of the ways of a prowl- 
ing company of folk, " and take care of myself 
the best way I can, and I'll be found. I'll be 



172 AZALEA 

back in Ma McBirney's house all right and 
tight in a little while. I'm going to believe that 
and say it over and over. I'm not going to be 
scared, nor sorry, nor anything. Jim and Hi 
will think I'm a silly thing to let myself be 
picked up and carried away like that, anyway. 
They'll think I haven't a bit of grit. But I'll 
show them I'm not such a stupid goose after all." 

She made up her mind, too, that she would 
try not to think too much about Ma McBirney. 
If she did she would get to crying again, and 
she didn't want to cry. She wanted to think, 
and to watch, and to be wise and act at the right 
moment. And having reached that conclusion, 
she sat up in bed with something almost like 
brightness on her face. And at that Tige, the 
bulldog, sat up too and showed all of his teeth 
as he gave a low growl. Tige was a good dog 
according to his lights; and his lights told him 
that when his master, Rafe Bowen according 
to Tige, the most wonderful master in the world 
told him to " watch," why then, he was to 
watch; nay he was to sleep with one eye open 
and both ears alert. 

" For goodness sake, Tige," whispered Aza- 
lea, leaning forward and putting out her hand 



HAYSTACK THOMPSON 173 

toward the dog, " be sensible, can't you? I've 
got to move sometimes, haven't I?" 

Betty Bowen threw her brown arms up over 
her frowsy head. 

" Keep still, you, Zalie," she snarled sleepily. 
" Don't you see I'm dead beat? " 

So for two hours longer the restless girl had 
to lie still in her bed, though it became almost 
an agony to do so, while the tired show woman 
slept on and on. After a time, however, the lit- 
tle camp came to life. Rafe got up and de- 
manded breakfast. Betty straggled out, heavy- 
eyed and slatternly, and set forth some cold food 
which Azalea could not swallow. The horses 
were fed, the wagon greased, and all was got in 
readiness for a hasty flight if necessary. Azalea 
helped as they directed her, and she managed to 
find a chance to wash carefully as Ma McBirney 
had taught her, and she combed her hair with a 
little side comb, and made herself look as well 
as she could. 

" You've got mighty fine ways since you've 
been living out," remarked Betty Bowen teas- 
ingly. Azalea looked at her as candidly as she 
would have looked at Ma McBirney, for some- 



174 AZALEA 

way, in spite of all her anger, she was feeling 
sorry for Bet Bowen this morning. 

"Yes, Mrs. Bowen," she said. " I have been 
taught some nice ways. Mrs. McBirney is the 
neatest woman you ever saw. Of course my 
own mamma tried to teach me things, but what 
was the use, when we didn't have any way to 
keep nice? You can't keep clean and fresh on 
the road, can you? " 

Betty looked at the girl in sullen surprise. 
She had not expected to be met in this neigh- 
borly fashion. She thought to herself that if 
she were being held a prisoner, no one could 
get her to " chirk up " like that. 

" No, you bet you can't," she said in answer 
to the girl's question. " Now me, I used to wash 
my hair and brush it, and keep my hands pretty. 
I wasn't always a battered old ship of the desert 
like I be now." Bet could be rather picturesque 
in her speech when she had a mind. " Fact is, 
I reckon I had too much good looks and too lit- 
tle sense once on a time. Both the sense and the 
looks have been knocked out of me now. I 
guess you or anybody can see that." 

" Whatever made you take up with this show 
life, Mrs. Bowen? " the girl asked. They were 



HAYSTACK THOMPSON 175 

sitting together then on the ground, their little 
odd tasks being all done. Azalea was playing 
idly with some pine needles, braiding them to- 
gether after a fashion she had, and weaving them 
into a little mat. In the old days she would have 
sat idle, but Ma McBirney had got her into the 
way of occupying herself with one thing and 
another. 

" What made me take to it? " demanded Bet, 
turning her haggard eyes on her companion, 
" Why, the same thing that made your mother 
take to it." 

There was something threatening and angry 
in the way she spoke, and Azalea looked at her 
with fear in her eyes. She could feel her heart- 
beats fairly strangling her, but she had the 
courage to seize at the remark. Ever since she 
was old enough to think at all, she had been 
puzzled and bewildered by the things about 
her. And -now it seemed she might be told 
something of all she wished to know. 

" And why was that, Betty? " she asked softly. 
" Why did my mamma have to wander around 
and act in a show? " 

Mrs. Bowen drew an old rag of a shawl about 
her shoulders and leaned back against a tree. 



176 AZALEA 

She seemed to be trying to make up her mind 
whether to tell this child the truth or not. But 
finally she gave a little nod. 

" I'm just going to up and tell you why," she 
said. " I think it's coming to you to know. She 
did it because she married a poor shiftless coot 
of a man, the black sheep of a way-up family, 
and she done it against the wishes of all her 
folks. She ran away from home with him, and 
she took care of him while he lazed around and 
wouldn't do nothing, and she looked after him 
like he was the best man in the world, and stuck 
to him when he gambled away all she earned. 
And then you was born, and she had to run away 
from him to get money enough to care for you." 

" Oh," gasped Azalea, her hand at her heart 
and a sick feeling stealing over her. 

" And I will say," went on Bet, " that she 
cared for you as tender as if you was respectable 
folks living in the finest house in town. She just 
done the best she could ; and she went along with 
us because we didn't object to having a baby in 
the troupe. We began training you like a little 
puppy as soon as you had any mimicry in you, 
and the folks that came to the show liked it. 
Her and you was drawing cards, I can tell you. 



HAYSTACK THOMPSON 177 

And for all of her broken heart she was nice 
and cheerful except when we'd go to the towns 
near by where she used to live. Then she was 
afraid she'd meet some of them that used to 
know her in the old days. But at last, when she 
found she was going to die, she seemed glad we 
was edging along toward her home." 

" And where \vas that," breathed rather than 
asked Azalea. " Where was her old home? " 

" Law, child, don't you know that? Why, her 
old home was at Lee. That's where your grand- 
father Atherton come from from Lee." 

" My grandfather Atherton? " 

" Sure, Zalie. Didn't your ma tell you that? 
Well, she was a close one. I don't know as she 
told us all, either, but we got hold of the story 
one way and another. When her father skipped 
out to parts unknown, owing to some trouble he 
got into at the time of the war, his wife she 
was his second wife, and only a young thing 
went back to her folks in Alabama for a while. 
And then they was made so poor by the war that 
she took shame to be dependent on them. So 
she came back to this part of the country, some- 
where, and taught school, and took care of her 
little girl. And that little girl was your ma. 



178 AZALEA 

She was a pretty little thing, made to live in 
luxury, I allow. I suppose she sort of honed 
for grand ways and grand clothes. Anyway, 
when your pa, Jack Knox, who come of an old 
family and was handsome and taking in his 
ways, came along, she married him. She didn't 
know the drinking and the shiftlessness had 
come down to him as well as the fine manners 
and the handsome face. I heard your grand- 
mother fought and fought against them two 
marrying, but they would have their way. So 
that's your story, missy, and I do think it was 
coming to you to know it." 

Azalea stared into the woman's face with 
wide-stretched eyes. 

" Oh, thank you, thank you, Mrs. Bowen. I 
am glad to know; I do think I had a right to be 
told. But just think, I was in that old house the 
other day that beautiful old house that be- 
longed to my grandfather. ( The Shoals ' it is 
called. And it's very, very queer, but I felt all 
the time as if I had been in it before. But of 
course I never had. You can't inherit memo- 
ries, can you Mrs. Bowen, the way you do the 
features of your face, or or habits? " 

But at that moment, Betty Bowen's great hulk 




fe\ . . \ 



"So that's your story, missy." 



HAYSTACK THOMPSON 179 

of a son came sauntering back from what he 
called a " spying." 

" There ain't nobody in sight so far as I can 
make out," he announced sullenly. " And now 
suppose you two quiet down a little. I want to 
sleep." 

He whistled his dog to him and pointed with 
a big forefinger at Azalea. 

" Watch, Tige," he commanded. And he and 
the dog stretched themselves side by side, the 
man to sleep, and the dog to keep guard. 

Azalea felt a wave of trembling creeping over 
her, and she turned her eyes once more to Bet. 

"Oh, Mrs. Bowen," she whispered, "what 
have I done that you should treat me like this? " 

But Mrs. Bowen lifted her ringer in warning. 

"Just keep still, Zalie," she answered, also 
under her breath, " and you won't be hurt. Sis- 
son's a man that hits back when he's hit. He 
was all-fired mad at your being took from him 
and he swore he'd have you back. He seemed 
to have to do it to keep up his pride. So now 
he's got you, and I'm to keep you, that's all." 

" But how can you, Betty? How can you? I 
wouldn't do anything mean to you." 

Betty Bowen looked at her darkly. 



i8o AZALEA 

" Sisson is kin of mine," she said, as if that 
settled the question. " There ain't nobody else 
in the world for me to turn to as I know of." 

A lump came into Azalea's throat as she 
looked at Betty. To think of having no friend 
but Sisson! Something warm began to stir in 
Azalea's heart. She did not know that the name 
of it was pity. 



CHAPTER X 

THE ESCAPE 

Mrs. McBirney sat at her loom. Eyes, hands 
and feet were busy; but no matter how busy she 
kept them she could not keep her mind and 
heart at ease. She had come back home when 
she found that the search for her missing girl 
would be a long one, and from early morning 
till late at night she kept about her tasks. She 
had a theory that there was nothing like work 
to help a troubled mind to forgetfulness, and 
she put her theory to the full test. 

Pa McBirney went about his tasks, too, and 
his face grew careworn as he saw the old rest- 
lessness and torment coming back in his wife's 
face. 

" That's just the way she carried on after your 
sister Mollie passed away," he said to Jim. 
" You wouldn't think she'd take Azalea's loss 
so hard, but then it's kind o' emptied her life 
again." 

" Well," said Jim in an old way he sometimes 

181 



1 82 AZALEA 

had, " if she knew Azalea was dead and safe, 
perhaps she wouldn't feel so dreadful bad. But 
not knowing where a body is that's what I 
call tormenting. When I think of the things 
that might be happening to Azalea her maybe 
going hungry or being beat with sticks, or good- 
ness knows what all it makes me as nervous 
as a bat. Hi's just the same way, too." 

Hi's broken arm had made it impossible for 
him to return to the mill, and he was spending 
his time with the McBirneys. He seemed to 
be actually greedy to learn all he could of this 
pleasant home. He listened to all Ma McBir- 
ney had to say, as if her words were gold; he 
watched Pa McBirney about his work; he 
played chess with Jim and studied Jim's school- 
books under Mrs. McBirney's direction. 

Mrs. McBirney wrote home to his mother for 
him, and told her all that had happened to him. 
At first Hi objected. 

" My uncle Hank Sisson will be after her first 
chance he gets, to find out where I am, and if 
she knows, he'll worm it out of her," the boy 
objected. 

" That's neither here nor there, Hi," Ma Mc- 
Birney had insisted. " She's just aching to know 



THE ESCAPE 183 

what's happening to her boy, and I'm going to 
let her know. Why, you ought to be with your 
ma, Hi. Somehow or other we've got to get the 
family down here. Now, when your arm's well, 
you can go back to the mill, and perhaps some 
of the other children are old enough to take a 
hand too; and what with all the tourists that 
come to Lee, your ma could sure find work 
washing, or sewing, or some such thing." 

" Oh, my, wouldn't that be fun! " sighed Hi. 

" See here, Mary," Pa McBirney had broke 
in, " what makes you lift up that boy's hopes the 
way you do? Like as not they'll all be dashed 
to earth." 

" What a-way should they be dashed for, 
father? Ain't it right that Hi and his ma should 
be together? And don't you believe that what's 
right will come to pass? " 

Pa shook his head doubtfully. " I don't know 
as that has been according to my experience," 
he said. 

" Of course it has, Thomas. You know it has! 
And everything's going to come right for Hi - 
and for Azalea, Thomas and for you and Jim 
and me! You'll see! You mustn't break down 
my faith, Thomas." 



1 84 AZALEA 

And Thomas McBirney, looking at her face 
with its look as of a light burning through it, 
knew that he must not, indeed. 

The second Saturday after Azalea's disap- 
pearance, a letter came to the Lee post office for 
Pa McBirney from Haystack Thompson. It 
read like this. 
" Deer Nabor: 

" How many wagons did the Sisson All Star 
Combinashun have when you saw them last? 
Adres me with the show. 

C. W. Thompson." 

Pa McBirney made use of the telegraph for 
the first time in his life, being moved to the act 
by the insistence of Mr. Carson. He responded 
briefly : 

" There were three wagons. Why? Wire my 
expense." 

And the answer came: 

" Because now he's got two only. I am 
fiddling for the show." 

"Good old Haystack!" cried Mr. Carson 
when he read the telegraphic message. And he 
himself ventured on a dispatch to Mr. Thomp- 
son. 



THE ESCAPE 185 

" Keep on fiddling," he wired. " The third 
wagon will come back." 

Then Mr. Carson rode home hard with the 
news to his Carin; and Mr. McBirney put his 
tired horses up the long mountain road to carry 
the word to his Mary. And Azalea's friends 
took heart, and hoped on and prayed on; and 
the sheriff made his more or less languid in- 
quiries, and the newspapers printed articles, and 
hundreds of people who did not know Azalea at 
all were very much interested. 

But all this was not greatly helping Azalea 
through the long days. They kept out of sight 
as much as possible Betty Bowen and her odd 
" family." By creeping along old roads and 
only stopping at the most out-of-the-way vil- 
lages they seemed to escape the curiosity of the 
people. Indeed, many of those they came across 
seemed not to have energy enough for anything 
so lively as curiosity. Azalea always had taken 
an interest in the world, and the best part of 
the old life had been, to her, the quiet journeys 
along the roads, with the glimpses they gave of 
farmhouses and cabins and little towns. Now 
that she had come to know so many warm- 
hearted new people, and that her own heart was 



1 86 AZALEA 

aglow with the remembrance of it all, her inter- 
est in the homes she passed was keener than ever. 
So long as she was allowed to sit where she could 
look out, she did not greatly mind the days. In 
spite of the constant watch kept over her, and 
of the fact that she had not dreamed it would be 
so long before she was restored to her friends, 
she would not be downcast, and it was only when 
Bet gave the word that they were to halt and 
go into camp for a day that the girl found life 
unendurable. 

To be sure she grew very weary of going over 
and over the same thoughts; of wondering and 
wondering why no one came to her aid; of 
thinking what would happen to her when they 
had caught up with Sisson and his show. But 
when the dread and the fear were at their worst, 
she remembered certain words that Ma Mc- 
Birney had spoken to her. 

" No matter what comes to you, Azalea," she 
had told her once, " you keep your heart full of 
God's light and of God's love, and nothing can 
really harm you. You mind what I say, child. 
You do that and the angels of the Lord will 
compass you about." 

If Betty Bowen had been her enemy she could 



THE ESCAPE 187 

have broken the child's heart, or let her become 
exposed to some of those vague dangers which 
Azalea half imagined. But she was not her 
enemy. In her tired, discouraged way she 
seemed to like her. And she admired her. She 
used to command the child to sing and Azalea 
sang the sweet songs she had learned from Carin 
and from Ma McBirney. 

They had crept up into the mountains by 
roundabout ways, and were now feeling their 
way toward the Sisson All Star Combination, 
the precise location of which they did not know. 
When Azalea learned that, in spite of herself, 
she began to feel anxious. Little by little the 
courage in her heart oozed out, leaving her a 
sad and trembling child. If the old-time wan- 
derings with the show had been hateful to her 
when she was with her mother, she knew they 
would be much, much more so now that she was 
alone and unfriended. It is possible for chil- 
dren to feel black despair, and something like 
that came to Azalea. It was evident to her that 
her friends had failed to get on her track, and 
in the long, idle, sodden hours of thought, she 
decided that her escape depended on herself. 

Little by little the watch set over her had 



1 88 AZALEA 

grown less strict. She had made no attempt to 
get away, and Betty and her son had come to 
count her in as a part of their company. They 
could not, indeed, imagine what would become 
of her should she leave them. Sour and bitter 
as their natures were, they really could not help 
liking this winsome girl, whose voice and man- 
ner seemed to speak to them day by day of bet- 
ter things than they had ever known. And lik- 
ing her, they no doubt felt that she liked them. 
At least, as they traveled together, or made camp 
in some wild, beautiful mountain cove, or 
worked side by side around the camp fire, she 
gave no sign that was not friendly. Even Tige 
had come to watch her in a spirit of defense 
rather than of attack. 

So one night when they had been sitting late 
before the camp fire, and she had gone into the 
tent to go to bed, she crept beneath the canvas 
at the rear and stole away through the woods. 
If it had not been for the crackling of the camp 
fire, she might have been overheard; and if it 
had not been for the growing weakness which 
kept poor weary Bet drowsing sleepily there be- 
fore the blaze, her escape would soon have been 
discovered. But as it was, not even the alert 



THE ESCAPE 189 

Tige had a hint of her going. He lay snoring 
and nuzzling before the fire, dimly aware that 
his master was near, and asking for no greater 
happiness. And that master sat there beside 
him, his head in his hands, thinking thoughts 
that for him were strange indeed. He had come 
back from a life of wandering and self-indul- 
gence to prey upon his mother. She was a clever 
one so he put it and if she wanted him to 
keep out of mischief, let her find some way to 
care for him! But now, after these weeks in 
the company of the young girl who looked out 
at life with kind and trusting eyes, and who was 
polite even to the woman who kept her prisoner, 
Rafe began to see things in a different light. He 
had meant to torment that girl, and he had 
thought that he would have pleasure in doing 
it. But he had, someway, not been able to carry 
out his intention. She had seen through him- 
had believed in his good nature in spite of every- 
thing. And he knew now that he wanted to be 
the way she thought him. He wanted her to 
think of him as something besides a bully and 
jailer. He wished his mother were different 
from what she was; wished from the bottom of 
his heart that the two of them were something 



AZALEA 

better than wandering vagabonds. If they had 
lived in a proper house, if his father had not left 
them, if he could have had a sister like Azalea, 
he would have made a very different fellow of 
himself from what he was. 

He wondered if, after all, it was too late. 
There were things he knew how to do. If his 
mother would give up this wandering and settle 
down in some quiet little place and keep Azalea 
with her, and if they could have really good 
things to eat, and a hearth to sit before rainy 
nights, an-d clothes that were decent and clean, 
why perhaps, after all, a fellow could " get 
shet " of the drinking of corn whiskey and the 
gambling and all. Rafe was young still, and 
the little kind angel of his better impulses had 
not all been slain by his black selfishness and his 
coarse appetites. So he sat and dreamed before 
the fire, and was somehow washed almost inno- 
cent again by the great sea of goodness that for- 
ever stretches about us, and in which we may, if 
we will, bathe and purify ourselves. The night 
and the stars, the wind and the fire were there 
to help him find himself. And while he 
dreamed, Azalea clipped on through the thick- 
growing laurel, skirted a little spring-fed pond, 



THE ESCAPE 191 

and finding the wagon-road, fled down the 
mountain with feet that felt as light as feathers 
as light as her heart. All of her courage had 
come rushing back. She said to herself that she 
would never be taken again never. She was 
not going to have her life spoiled. It was her 
life and she meant to " run it " to suit herself. 
And as she fled, it seemed as if the little brown, 
thin hands of her dead mother were held out to 
help her; and as if the strong, kind hands of 
Ma McBirney were stretched in welcome; and 
the good, freckled hands of Jim and Hi beat 
together in encouragement. 

Yes, they were patting " juba " for her, were 
Jim and Hi, and to the patter, patter, her feet 
sped on. She was not afraid of the night. She 
liked it. The stars saw what she was doing and 
were glad. The night bird that called out, kept 
the woods from being too solitary. The very 
wind was in her favor, and pushed at her back. 
Sometimes she stopped to rest, and she would 
have liked to sleep. But it seemed foolish to do 
that. The point now, was to get safe away. 

" I was caught napping once," she said to 
herself with a dry little laugh, " but I don't mean 
to be again." 



192 AZALEA 

Along toward morning she came on a little 
village one she had not seen before. There 
was not a light anywhere, but the houses clus- 
tered together like comfortable sheep in the 
darkness, and she felt happier for being among 
them. Now that she was safe with these other 
human creatures, her weariness and sleepiness 
almost overcame her. It was growing chilly as 
the morning air quickened though as yet there 
was no hint in the sky of coming light and 
she shivered in her thin clothes. She still wore 
the white frock that had been so dainty and 
sweet the day of the Singing, but which was now 
a dusty rag. Her hat she had left behind her. 
The hair Ma McBirney had taught her to brush 
every night was full of the dust of the road. All 
of that pleasant cleanliness which she recently 
had been taught, had been of necessity lost in 
the life she had been leading. She felt ashamed 
as she thought how she would look to strangers, 
who probably would think her a miserable vaga- 
bond. However, her state could be remedied 
in time. Now the thing was to get in 01;: of the 
cold; for she was drenched with sweat and her 
damp clothes clung to her. 

She turned into one of the little yards, and 



THE ESCAPE 193 

going around to the rear of the house, tried the 
handle of a shed door. It yielded, and she 
stepped into a dark little room smelling of fire- 
wood. At the far side was an open door, and 
she groped her w r ay to it and stood on a little 
framed-in porch with wire netting on the one 
exposed side. And there, neatly made, was a 
cot bed, waiting, it seemed, for some weary child 
to crawl in between its w 7 arm blankets. Azalea 
took off her worn and dusty shoes and her dis- 
graceful frock, and stretched herself between the 
comforts. The next moment she was sound 

asleep. 

***** 

A few hours later, the Sisson All Star Com- 
bination, rattling down the mountain side, came 
upon the wagon and the tent of Betty Bowen, 
ranged side by side in a comfortable little pocket 
away back from the road the same road that 
Azalea had taken a mile lower down, after her 
hurried taking of the short cuts. 

Sisson greeted the encampment with a whoop, 
and brought Rafe, shock-headed and heavy- 
eyed, from his bed of straw in the wagon. 

" Well," said Sisson, " you ain't getting up 
early to hang out the wash, be you? Where's 
Bet? Where's the girl?" 



194 AZALEA 

Rafe pointed at the tent with his thumb. 

" In there, I reckon. We ail sat late last 
night around the fire." 

" Huh! Mighty social, ain't you? Had any 
trouble with that girl? " 

Rafe frowned and shook his head. 

" Well, get 'em out of the tall grass," com- 
manded Sisson. " I want to see 'em." 

Rafe went to the tent door and called, but Bet 
was sleeping heavily, and her son, looking at her 
jaded face, hesitated to arouse her. It was 
Azalea whom Sisson wanted to see, and Rafe 
said to himself that Sisson would have to treat 
her well, or there would be trouble. He could 
see the girl's bed bunched up as if she were 
rolled underneath the bed clothes, but when he 
called there was no answer, and at last, half 
frightened, he went over to awaken her. But 
when he got closer he discovered there was no 
one in the bed. The clothes were tossed up as 
if some one lay there, and he saw at a 
glance that they had been purposely made to 
look that way. For a minute his heart sank; 
and then, suddenly, with a strange new unselfish- 
ness, it lightened. Azalea had slipped from 
Sisson's clutches after all. Rafe drew his belt a 



THE ESCAPE 195 

little tighter, pushed his hat on the back of his 
head, and going out, faced the company. 

" The girl's lit out," he said briefly. 

" What? " screamed Sisson. And before Rafe 
could say more, a man the tallest, it seemed 
to Rafe, that he ever had set his eyes upon, came 
stalking around from behind one of the wagons. 
He was hatless, and revealed a startling shock 
of hair, and underneath his arm he carried a 
fiddle in its case. 

"What you say, you speckled cub?" he 
roared. 

" The girl's lit out," Rafe repeated. He 
grinned at them cheerfully, and was still grin- 
ning as Sisson advanced with fight in his eye. 

" Ain't you onto your job any better than 
that? " he yelled, still coming on. Rafe looked 
almost languid as he watched him, but just as 
Sisson got ready for a rush at him, the great arm 
of the young mountaineer shot forward, striking 
his " boss " cleanly between the eyes. And down 
in the dust went the head of the Sisson All Star 
Combination. Every one except the man with 
the violin laughed. He seemed hardly to have 
noticed Sisson's downfall. He turned his pierc- 



196 AZALEA 

ing eyes on the young man and said in a voice 
as cold and keen as a sword-edge: 

" Tell me where the girl is." 

That new, strange gathering of little good an- 
gels conspired again to make Rafe answer: 

" I don't know, sir. She went into that tent 
last night. That's the last I seen of her. I didn't 
set the dog to watch last night I got tired of 
treating that little thing like she was a convict. 
So she's slipped away." 

Something very like applause came from the 
All Stars, and it grew a little louder as Bet, hav- 
ing been awakened by the noise, appeared at the 
door. They were giving her credit, she under- 
stood, for having connived at the child's escape. 

" But she may be near at hand," continued the 
man with the fiddle. 

" I reckon not, sir. Her bed was fixed up to 
look like she was in it. She's lit out all right." 

" Then I'll do the same," said Haystack 
Thompson. He reached in one of the wagons 
and drew out a few clothes tied in a square of 
homespun. " So long, folks," he said. " Hope 
you'll enjoy yourselves." 

The All Stars stared and forgot their man- 
ners, so that " Haystack " had to make his way 



THE ESCAPE 197 

on down the mountain with no one to say good- 
bye. 

" So he was spying out the girl the whole 
time! " said they to each other. 

But what they thought or knew was of no 
consequence to Haystack now. He swung on 
down the road, peering here and there, and 
hallooing at the top of his lungs every few min- 
utes. 

"Zalie! Zalie McBirney!" he shouted. 
" Where you hiding? This is ole Haystack 
come to take you home. Don't be afeard, Zalie. 
Answer up, that's a good girl." 

But no answer came; and a couple of hours 
later when he had reached the contented little 
town of Barrington, he went to the telegraph 
office and with the help of the obliging young 
operator sent this message to Mr. Carson. 

" Found the third wagon, but not the girl. 
Search party going out to-day." 



CHAPTER XI 

THE SUMMERS FAMILY 

The Rev. Mr. Absalom Summers, pastor of 
the Methodist church at Harrington, N. C., got 
up out of his bed singing. He went to his bath 
singing, and singing he hastened to the kitchen 
to build the fire for breakfast. 

" A mighty fortress is our Lord," he shouted 
to the clear, bright morning. 

" A bulwark nev-ev-er fail-11-ing." 

He did not even stop singing when he knocked 
his head against the shed door. Indeed, he 
would have felt a little lonesome if he had not 
hit it against that jamb, for that battering of his 
blond head was a part, so to speak of the morn- 
ing ritual. He loomed six feet three in his 
knitted hose, and as the door was only six feet in 
height, difficulties of one sort or another were 
unavoidable. As yet, the door casing had re- 
sisted all attacks. All the Rev. Absalom said 
was " Ouch! Giminy cricket! " And then with 
increased vigor he continued: 

198 



THE SUMMERS FAMILY 199 

" Our helper he, amid the flood 
Of mortal ills pre-vail-11-ing. 
For still our ancient foe, 
Doth seek to work us woe " 

The song died not on the lips of the rev- 
erend gentleman, for to say that he sang with 
his lips would be to do him an injustice. The 
song died in his resounding throat and his mas- 
sive lungs, it faded away in his deep diaphram, 
and he stood frankly gasping. 

The morning being so fair, it had called to 
him, and even with his arms laden with good 
u light wood," he could not resist the temptation 
to step out on the little porch to look at the lacy 
clouds winding over an azure sky, and the deli- 
cate scarfs of mist fluttering from the shoulders 
of the mountains. And then he saw just what 
papa bear and mamma bear and baby bear saw 
when they came back to their home. He saw 
Golden-locks, or rather Hazel-locks, asleep in 
the little couch. She was smiling as if she were 
dreaming of happy things, but for all of that 
she looked very worn and uncared for. The 
shoes that stood beside the cot had almost no 
soles to them, and the soiled white frock that lay 



200 AZALEA 

tumbled at the foot of the bed, was a mere rag. 
Her long hair was uncared for, and the deep 
rings beneath her eyes were not all from fatigue. 

" Well," said he under his breath, " the poor 
little thrush the little storm-blown thrush!" 

And then he rushed away, because he felt a 
great need upon him, which was to tell his wife 
Barbara what had happened. It was nothing 
less than a pain to him to know anything that 
Barbara did not know. So he emptied his arms 
of the wood, and dashed back to the bedroom. 

"Come!" he commanded. "Come!" His 
greenish eyes were shining with the loving light 
that was almost always to be seen in them, his 
face, as quick with expressions as an actor's, was 
literally beaming, and he was gesticulating with 
his large hands. "Just come, mamma, quick," 
he pleaded. " Please don't stop to do your hair." 

"Me go too! Me go too!" piped the in- 
sistent, high-pitched voice of the young person 
in the cradle. So without more ado, the Rev. 
Absalom gathered his son in his arms, and the 
three Summers made an excursion to the back 
porch. There they stood at least there two 
of them stood, and there the third, safe under his 
dad's arm, wriggled and looked at the little 



THE SUMMERS FAMILY 201 



forlorn, sleeping beauty. Then, because Mrs. 
Barbara had a way of finding the right word, 
she sighed happily: 

" How winsome! " And then: " How for- 
lorn!" 

" Clean beat out," agreed the Rev. Absalom. 

Barbara put a finger on her lips. 

" Let her sleep," she said. " She shall sleep 
as long as she can, and after that, we'll see what's 
to be done. Best lock the shed door, dear, so 
she can't get away without our knowing it. She 
might be frightened, you know." 

Her husband smiled his broadest smile. 

" I don't believe she'd be very much fright- 
ened," he said. " She's got too much sense. 
Now, if I was lost, or had run away from home, 
I'd never have the sense to nose out a bed and 
get into it. Not I. I'd be lying out in the rain 
groaning and sighing." 

" Yes, I see you groaning and sighing," re- 
torted his wife, pinching his arm as she took the 
baby from him. " You'd take a crowbar and 
break in the front door of the first house you 
came to, and then you'd bless all the people in 
the house and crawl in the best bed and go to 
sleep." 



202 AZALEA 

She ran with the baby in her arms, away from 
his pretended anger, and he turned his attention 
once more to the kitchen fire, singing under his 
breath : 
" And though this world with demons rilled, 

Should threaten to undo-oo-oo us 

The world might be filled with demons, but 
it was quite evident that they had not succeeded 
in breaking into the house of the Rev. Absalom 
Summers. They had not put their clutches on 
his little brown wife nor on his golden-haired 
baby son. They were not in the bright little 
kitchen, where she hastily prepared the morning 
meal, and they did not sit down at the table with 
the family while the head of the house said 
grace in clear and decisive tones which could 
leave no chance for any inattention on the part 
of Providence. 

" Oh, dear Master of the World and of this 
little house," prayed the good man, " we thank 
Thee for this bright morning and for the flowers 
and clouds and birds which have helped to make 
it beautiful. We thank Thee that we, here be- 
neath this roof, love each other with whole 
hearts. We thank Thee for the little child that 
sits here at our board, and for his health and 



THE SUMMERS FAMILY 203 

smiles, and from the bottom of our hearts we 
pray Thee to give us wisdom to lead him in the 
paths of goodness. And we thank Thee for the 
little wanderer who sleeps a stranger in our 
house. If she be motherless, give us joy in 
mothering her; and if she be fatherless, we com- 
mit her to Thy all knowing care beg for her 
Thy abounding love and mercy. May no fear 
come in her heart when first she looks upon us. 
May she see at once the tenderness we feel for 
her. And if it be Thy will that she shall unite 
her life with ours, may we have heart of grace 
to take her as a gift from Thee. Amen." 

" Amen," breathed Mrs. Barbara, wiping her 
eyes. 

" Amen," laughed baby Jonathan. 

And then they all fell to and ate with the best 
of appetites. 

Then, while they lingered over their meal, 
and the Rev. Absalom talked about the ride he 
ought to take to Sessions to see old Mrs. Under- 
wood, who had cancer, and while Mrs. Barbara 
decided .that perhaps she'd better not start her 
blue chally that day when she was likely to have 
so much on her mind, and while baby Jonathan 
was wondering when, when he would be let 



204 AZALEA 

down on the floor to crawl after that nice hairy 
caterpillar, there came a great knocking at the 
door. 

"Old Bill Jones!" cried the preacher. 
"What a fist the man^has! Who can it be, 
Barbara? " It was no easy matter for the master 
of the house to uncoil his long legs and get them 
out from under the table. So it was little Mrs. 
Barbara who opened the door to admit a man 
quite as tall as her own Absalom a man with 
no hat and a great shock of hair, and a fiddle 
under his arm. He nodded to Mrs. Summers, 
but looked over her head at the man and 
shouted: 

" Neighbor, I'm getting up a posse to hunt a 
little girl that's been lost. It's mighty important 
that we get under way inside of an hour at the 
farthest. Will you join us?" 

" Now you just make up your mind I will, 
man. But first I want to know why she's lost, 
and who wants her, and what's to be done with 
her after she's found. I've known of cases where 
it was better to be lost than found. What say? " 

" I say what you say is true, sir! It would be 
a heap better for that there little girl to die on 
the mountains alone than to be picked up by the 



THE SUMiMERS FAMILY 205 

folks she's run away from. But I don't want 
them to get her, and I don't want her to die on 
the mountain side, for there's happiness a-com- 
ing to her if only I can put my hands on her and 
take her back to them that's waiting for her." 

Mr. Summers was at last untangled from the 
table and he came forward holding out that great 
hearty hand which had put faith and hope into 
many weary hearts. 

" Now, neighbor, you do me the honor to en- 
ter and be seated, if you please. I want to get 
the rights of this story before I do anything. 
And don't think you're wasting time, for I give 
you my word that you're saving it, and that as 
soon as I find this is a thing we all ought to en- 
list in, I'll have the whole town about us bay- 
ing at our heels, sir and it will be view and 
halloo with us." 

Haystack Thompson shifted his violin to his 
other arm, and ran a long tongue over his lips. 
Then he looked over his man. 

" You the preacher? " he asked. 

" Right you are." 

He came in then, and at Mrs. Summer's invi- 
tation to draw his chair up to the breakfast table, 
did so, and ate while he told his story. From 



206 AZALEA 

time to time the Rev. Absalom consulted his 
wife Barbara. He had a way of lifting an eye- 
brow or half closing an eye, that was a code of 
signals in itself; and she had her own swift ways 
of answering. So that by the time Haystack 
was through with his story, both Mr. and Mrs. 
Summers had decided what to do. 

"You show him," said Mr. Summers. So 
Mrs. Barbara arose and beckoned their visitor. 

" There's no need of a searching party, sir," 
she said. " Come see what we found this morn- 
ing." 

And then, just as the two of them stepped out 
onto the porch, Azalea opened her weary eyes 
and blinked at the light. 

"Well, praise the Lord!" broke from Hay- 
stack's lips when he saw her. 

"Amen!" shouted the Rev. Absalom, and in 
spite of some effort to restrain himself he broke 
out with: 

" The Prince of darkness grim, 
We tremble not for him ; 
His rage we can endure, 
For lo! his doom is sure. 
One little word shall fell-11-11 him." 



THE SUMMERS FAMILY 207 

Azalea sat up on her cot with the bedclothes 
drawn up to her chin, and stared about her with 
eyes too full of surprise to be troubled. Then, 
with a rush, she comprehended. 

"Oh, Mr. Thompson, dear!" she gasped. 
" Is it really you? Oh, Mr. Thompson! " She 
forgot her uncovered arms and her straggling 
hair, and sprang from her couch into the old fid- 
dler's outstretched arms, and wept. It was not a 
mere summer shower, but a cloudburst a 
freshet. And Haystack Thompson wept too, and 
mopped his eyes on his red bandana; and the 
Rev. Absalom Summers mopped his on the 
roller towel; and little Mrs. Summers dried 
hers delicately on the hem of the baby's frock. 
But, however, it became necessary to bring all 
this to an end, and Haystack found the cour- 
age to do it. He set the little girl down firmly 
in a chair and shook a warning finger at her. 

"Storm's all over!" he announced; and he 
helped Mrs. Summers to wrap her pink knitted 
shawl around the girl's shoulders. 

" I'm off," he announced, " to send word to 
the folks at home." 

" And I'm with you," declared the preacher. 

Mrs. Summers ran to the window to see the 



208 AZALEA 

two tall men making their way down the street, 
and then hastened back to her strange guest. 
Azalea had arisen and came forward with the 
pink shawl dragging behind her. 

" Oh, ma'am," she pleaded, both hands ex- 
tended, " Please don't think me bold and horrid. 
I'm not bold, honest I'm not. I want to tell you 
all about it." 

" I know all about it now, my dear, and I 
understand everything. I don't think you are 
bold, and I'm very thankful that you came here. 
And now, my child, you will find some clean 
clothes laid out on the bed for you and I are 
just about of a size, though I'm a married per- 
son and you're a little girl. And here's a glass 
of milk to go on, so to speak, while you are mak- 
ing yourself fine. By the time you are ready, 
there'll be more porridge cooked for you. You 
like porridge, don't you with cream? And 
do you like muffins with raisins in them? I can 
cook some in no time. And bacon shall it be 
bacon and a few fried potatoes?" 

But Azalea had fled to make her toilet. It 
was, after all, not so quickly made as she might 
have hoped. As she stood in the simple, dainty 
room, with the pretty toilet table and the deli- 



THE SUMMERS FAMILY 209 

cately perfumed soap and the great soft towels, 
all her longing for the cleanliness of the Ma Mc- 
Birney days came over her, and when she 
emerged, at last, the muffins were as brown as 
nuts on top, and the bacon was done to a crisp. 

"Well! " cried Mrs. Summers when she saw 
the girl in her starched pink gingham, with 
smooth braids and " shining morning face " 
standing in the doorway. " Well! " The word 
seemed to mean much. It meant among other 
things that Mrs. Barbara liked the looks of her 
unexpected guest, and Azalea felt a pleasant 
wave of " homeyness " gently rippling over her. 

" And now for breakfast," said little Mrs. 
Barbara. But at that moment Azalea saw what 
she thought was the sweetest thing her eyes ever 
had beheld. Baby Jonathan was in his tub down 
before the fire, and he was splashing with hands 
and feet till the water flew all about him on the 
blue oilcloth. 

" Oh, the little deary dear! " squealed Azalea, 
forgetting all about breakfast and dropping on 
her knees beside the rosy baby. " Oh, the little 
lovey, ducky, honey-pot!" She dropped a kiss 
at the back of his neck, and then deposited one 
in each of his moist, rosy palms. She twisted bis 



210 AZALEA 

golden, silk-fine ringlets about her finger, and 
counted his toes and his fingers to the imme- 
morial rhyme of the little pig that went to 
market. 

" But, my dear," protested the baby's mother, 
" your breakfast is getting cold." 

" Oh, I know, Mrs. Summers. But I like it 
cold. I do, really, ma'am. And then I've had 
ever so many breakfasts Oh, ever and ever so 
many in my time. But I never saw a baby be- 
fore, close too, and like this. I didn't know they 
were so sweet. Why, he's the very loveliest thing 
I ever saw. Are all babies as nice as this one? " 

Mrs. Barbara beamed, and her dark eyes 
looked deeper and sweeter than ever. 

" Well, I don't think there are any quite as 
nice," she said blushing beautifully. " But so 
far as I've seen they're all more or less nice." 

" I should think everybody would have 'em! " 
cried Azalea. " I certainly shall." 

" I would," said little Mrs. Barbara tenderly. 
" And now come, you starved child, and eat 
your breakfast." 

While Azalea ate, she and Mrs. Summers ex- 
changed confidences. Azalea told her the full 
story of her " strange life " as she called it; and 



THE SUMMERS FAMILY 211 

Mrs. Summers told her about her happy girl- 
hood, and her days away at boarding school, and 
how her parents had wished her to marry a 
young man who lived near them, and whom she 
had known all her life, and who was rich and of 
high social position, and how she had just had 
to marry Absalom Summers who had no money, 
and who didn't know or care what you 
meant when you talked about a social position. 

" And I'm so happy," said the clergyman's lit- 
tle wife, " in this dear funny little house " 

" And with that dear funny little baby," broke 
in Azalea. 

" That I really can't be thankful enough," 
concluded Mrs. Summers. 

" Well," said Azalea, " you'd be surprised if 
you could know of the perfectly lovely people 
I've been meeting these days." 

" Not Bet Bowen and her son? " teased Mrs. 
Summers. 

Azalea flushed a little. " But really and 
truly, they had their good side, Mrs. Summers," 
she said earnestly. " They weren't half as bad 
to me as they might have been." 

" You dear child! I'm sure they weren't. And 



212 AZALEA 

perhaps in their hearts they are glad you got 
away." 

Azalea clasped her hands and swung them up 
over her head with a curious, excited gesture. 
" You can make up your mind that I'm glad, 
Mrs. Summers. Just think, I'm really free 
again, and I'm going back to Ma McBirney, and 
Carin and all the rest." 

The baby had been taken from its bath and 
clothed in fresh garments, and now its mother 
made herself comfortable in a low rocking 
chair, and drew the fuzzy head against her 
shoulder. 

" I'm going to rock him to sleep," she ex- 
plained. " So we'll have to stop talking a 
while." 

Azalea smiled till all of her teeth gleamed. 

" I'll try," she said, " but I know it will be 
hard. Honest, I never talked so much before 
in my life. I've always been afraid of people a 
little, or thought it wasn't polite to talk like this. 
But someway you don't mind my saying it, 
do you, Mrs. Summers? you seem almost like 
my own sister. I couldn't help talking to you. 
You may be married and older than I am, but 



213 

you're no bigger. And then you've been so good 
so good I couldn't say." 

" Sh, dear," murmured the little mother. And 
she crooned the baby to sleep while the girl, sit- 
ting on a hassock near, watched her with admir- 
ing eyes. 

Then, when baby was quiet, the two worked 
together about the little house till all was tidy 
and as it should be, and little Mrs. Summers 
made her confession too. 

" I get dreadfully lonely at times," she said. 
" The people here are good as good can be, but 
they're different from the people I'm used to. 
I can't seem to make myself feel quite free with 
them. Why, I've told you more, Azalea, than 
I have them, and I've only known you such a 
little, little few minutes." 

" It's queer, isn't it? " said Azalea softly. 
" It's very queer. I know this : I'll have you for 
my kin as long as I live. You see I've no real 
kin, so we'll be pretend kin." 

" Cousins! " cried Mrs. Barbara. " Make it 
cousins! " 

" Cousins! " cried Azalea in turn. And they 
smiled at each other from across the bed that 
they were making together. 



214 AZALEA 

So Haystack Thompson, still somewhat 
troubled and flustered, came back to find his 
charge as happy as a bird. And it was arranged 
that they should take the train for Lee that after- 
noon. 

" You're to wear the things you have on, Aza- 
lea," said Mrs. Summers. " And my blue sun- 
shade, and you can send them back to me when 
you get ready. I've ten times as many clothes as 
I have any occasion to wear here." 

But there were still several hours that these so 
sudden friends could spend together; so Azalea 
was shown the garden and the chickens and the 
cow and the one lazy white horse, and she was 
present when Jonathan awoke. She saw him 
dewy from his sleep, and thought him lovelier 
than ever. So it was not quite easy to say good- 
bye when the time came. But it was agreed that 
Mrs. Summers was to write to Azalea and that 
Azalea was to answer, and that they were to 
address each other as " My dear Cousin." 

The four o'clock train bore Haystack Thomp- 
son and Azalea away from the little huddled 
town and up through the purple mountains, and 
dropped them, after hours of unexpected delay, 
down into the village of Lee. 



CHAPTER XII 

MA SAYS NO 

Ma McBirney, sitting sad-eyed at the edge of 
the mountain plateau on which her cottage 
stood, was absently watching the road. She had 
no reason to suppose that anybody would be 
winding up that five-mile wagonway to see her, 
yet for some reason she could not fix her mind on 
her work that morning. Sitting there at the 
" Outlook," she could see over the bright valley 
and catch the gleam of the sun on the river and 
on the distant dome of the county courthouse. 

About her the bees hummed, intent on their 
day's work; and not far distant stood the buzzing 
village of hives which Thomas McBirney had 
placed where the Pride of India tree, the mimo- 
sas and catalpas, the trumpet flower and wild 
honeysuckle could feed them. Mary McBirney 
loved the song of the bees; she loved the bright 
valley; she loved her home and most of all she 
loved those within it. 

Yet to-day the heart in her was heavy. A 

215 



216 AZALEA 

sorrow less black yet somehow more dishearten- 
ing than that which had engulfed her at the time 
of her Molly's death, rested upon her heart. 
When Molly had died, it was as if the tragic 
blackness of night had come upon her. Yet 
amid this murk there came shining the morning 
star of hope. And afterward there came the full 
and beautiful dawn of perfect trust. She be- 
lieved that in the Time to Come she and Molly 
would stand together, spirit to spirit, and that 
there would be no more separation. 

Then Azalea had come to fill the lonely hours 
with her bright ways, and every night Mary Mc- 
Birney had thanked God for her daughterly so- 
ciety. And now she was gone! Nor could the 
woman who had grown to love her, rest in the 
comfort that she was, like Molly, safe from 
harm. When Molly died, her mother's grief 
had been selfish. She did not mourn for Molly, 
but for herself. But now she mourned most for 
the lost girl, who might be going through terri- 
ble experiences, and who was, no doubt, eating 
out her heart in terror and homesickness. 

There were not wanting those who said and 
believed that the " circus girl " had run away 
of her own accord and gone back to the wander- 



MA SAYS NO 217 

ing folk with whom she had spent the greater 
part of her life. But never for one fleeting sec- 
ond did Ma McBirney think this. She had 
looked too often into the clear and loving eyes 
of the girl, to believe that there could be any- 
thing about her which was not straightforward 
and loyal. She only prayed that in some way 
her love might reach out, as starlight reaches 
from stars, to shine on the poor wandering child 
and comfort her. 

She could see her Thomas working on his 
terraced, steep fields, and now and then she 
waved a hand to him. She didn't want him to 
know how heavily her heart lay in her. She had 
caused him enough anxiety during the past year, 
and she knew his own heart was sore with the 
loss of his Molly, and that he also was greatly 
distressed over Azalea. So, not to add to his 
troubles, she tried to wear a cheerful face. But 
this morning her knees seemed to give way un- 
der her, and her pulse fluttered sickeningly. 

Then, as she sat there reproaching herself for 
not having more faith that her eager prayers 
would be answered, she saw three riders coming 
up the long road. They showed in the midst of 
a little clearing and then were lost among the 



2i8 AZALEA 

trees, and only now and then, at some bald, out- 
jutting point, could she catch a glimpse of them. 
After a time she made out that they were a man, 
a woman and a girl; and when they were still 
far beneath her, she recognized them for Mr. 
and Mrs. Carson and Carin. 

She threw a thought to the cabin and the way 
it looked, and decided that nothing was out of 
place. All was as orderly and clean as hands 
could make it, and up in Azalea's empty 
room, there were fresh flowers in the vase, and 
the canary bird was singing on the little high- 
swung gallery. As for Ma McBirney herself, 
she always was neat. Her hair rippled away 
from her broad, low brow, and her plain ging- 
ham frock, with its crocheted collar and its 
branched coral brooch, was as clean and smooth 
as it could be made. So, unflurried as ever 
though she had never before received people so 
important Mrs. McBirney awaited her 
guests. 

The three of them, having achieved the last 
climb on their way, urged their horses to a fine 
gallop, and they came bearing down tumult- 
uously on Mary McBirney, crying out some- 
thing joyously. Then, suddenly she forgot all 



MA SAYS NO 219 

her dignity and ran to meet them, and as they 
reined up sharply by her side the tears were 
streaming over her face. 

" What say? What say? " she shrilled at 
them. " Is she found!" 

"Found! Whoop la!" shouted Mr. Carson 
like a boy. " Found by Haystack Thompson. 
She's all safe and right safe and right as 
Carin here. And they're coming home on the 
afternoon train." 

" Oh," gasped Mrs. McBirney, and sank 
down on a convenient stump and stared in the 
distance, the unheeded tears still running down 
her cheeks. And then rousing herself she cried : 
" But the boys must know! Pa must know! " 

"Where are they all?" 

" Pa's cultivating the cotton patch yon ; and 
Hi's fishing it don't take but one arm to fish, 
you know. And Jim's off at school." 

" Count Jim out, then, Mrs. McBirney. 
Shall I go call the others?" 

" Wait. I've a way," cried Mrs. McBirney, 
and sped toward the house. There she kept an 
old horn hanging. It had come down in the 
family from Revolutionary times; it had been 
used to call the men in from the fields, when the 



220 AZALEA 

hostile Indians showed their feathered heads 
above the pass, and now it blew its good tidings 
over the fields. 

"That will bring them," said Mrs. McBir- 
ney. " They'll come running." 

The Carsons said they would sit out in the 
sunshine that there was no need for them to 
go into the house. They had come up unex- 
pectedly, and they gave Mary McBirney a 
chance to keep her house to herself if she 
wished. But a kind of humble pride swelled in 
the good woman's heart. She had not many 
vanities, but her pride in her home was one of 
them. 

" We will sit in the sun," she said, " for it's 
the place to be days like this. But first you must 
see my home. I've seen yours, you know." 

So they were shown the homely rooms the 
rooms where each and every member of the 
family had his comfortable place. They saw 
the cat sunning on the doorstep, and the hounds 
stretched out in the yard. They saw the braided 
rugs, the woven counterpanes, the homemade 
cotton at the windows, the shapely baskets, all 
the products of Mary McBirney's busy hands. 

And then they were taken to that clean little 



MA SAYS NO 221 

chamber, looking straight up the leafy moun- 
tain side, which the McBirneys had lovingly 
made for Azalea. 

"Oh!" cried Carin, "Isn't it a dear place, 
mamma? Quaint and dear like Azalea! My 
room has too many things in it, hasn't it mamma? 
I like this better. And it's almost like living in 
the tree tops. The next time Azalea leaves you, 
Mrs. McBirney, it will be because she thinks 
she's a bird and flies away. Or else she'll be a 
flying squirrel." 

And just then they heard Thomas McBirney 
calling them from below. Then they all went 
down to have a part in telling their good news, 
and while they were in the very midst of their 
story not that they had much to tell, for they 
knew no more than Haystack's message had 
brought them Hi's odd little figure, with its 
long arms and bullet head, came crawling up 
the rocks from the lower waterfall. His dark 
face was strangely old and tired, and as he 
moved forward, with one of his thin arms in a 
splint, he certainly looked like a neglected boy, 
and this in spite of all that Ma McBirney could 
do to keep him as she thought a boy should be 
kept. 



222 AZALEA 

" She's found, Hi," Mr. Carson shouted in 
his hearty way. " Azalea is found! " 

" Honest, sir? " cried Hi, stumbling forward. 
"Honest?" 

"Honest Injun, hope to die!" roared back 
Mr. Carson. 

Hi began kicking viciously at the dirt and 
twisting his body this way and that. He was in 
agony for fear he would " boo hoo," as he put it 
to himself. 

"Sap head!" he snarled under his breath, 
" Mammy's baby boy! " He was calling him- 
self names, and to some effect, for the invisible 
hand that had clutched his throat seemed to 
relax. 

"Well," said Mr. Carson, "let's go sit out 
there on the headland and talk. We rode up 
here to-day not only to tell you this perfectly 
gorgeous piece of news, but also to talk over cer- 
tain matters with you." 

" I'm sure we're pleased to listen to anything 
you have to say, sir," replied Thomas McBirney 
quaintly. So they seated themselves on the 
benches at " Outlook Point." 

"We are so," murmured Ma McBirney in 
her soft voice. 



MA SAYS NO 223 

" Won't you begin at the beginning, Lucy? " 
said Mr. Carson to his wife. " Tell them how 
we came to leave the city and our friends and 
all, and settle here. Or shall I tell them, dear? " 

Mrs. Carson leaned back against the trunk of 
a tulip tree and looked off across the valley. 

" It was a great sorrow," she said in her weary, 
beautiful way. " It was a sorrow so great that 
we never could quite believe it." She spoke 
slowly, with a little pause between each word. 
" In one day our three sons were taken from 
us. It was at a theatre there was a fire I 
never talk of it. I cannot. We have traveled; 
we have lived here and there, and we have been 
unable to get back our strength and interest. 
My Charles " she laid her white hand on her 
husband's knee " tries to make out that he has. 
But I know better. But he's more unselfish than 
I, that's all. Sometimes I've shut myself up 
for weeks at a time, and seen no one except my 
nurse. It was the only way that I could control 
myself. Well, not to talk of that, we have come, 
naturally enough, to look at life in a very dif- 
ferent way from what we used to look at it. We 
see that we've got to stop living for ourselves 
alone. If we're to be happy again, we must 



224 AZALEA 

enlarge our family. We must take in everyone 
we can reach who needs us, or who will care for 
us. So we have come down here where every 
one seems simple and friendly, and where we 
can offer our neighborly offices, to spend the 
next few years. We heard of the fine old Ather- 
ton place, and finding that it was for sale, we 
bought it and have made a home there which 
we really are coming to love, though we had 
thought we never could really care for a home 
again. And now we want to be doing some- 
thing something really interesting." 

" We want to play a new game," broke in Mr. 
Carson, " and to get as many as we can to come 
and play with us." 

"We want," went on Mrs. Carson, "to go 
into these mountain industries. We want the 
old handicrafts to be revived; the weaving, the 
basket making and the pottery. And we want 
your help and advice." 

" Oh, yes'm," cried Mary McBirney enthu- 
siastically. " Thomas and I have talked many 
and many's the time, of the good that might 
come from such a thing. Why, there's chair 
makers in these parts that can make a chair 



MA SAYS NO 225 

that'll go down to their great-great-grand- 
children." 

"Just the thing, just the thing, madam!" 
answered Mr. Carson. " They've got the 
knowledge, and they've the talent, but they don't 
use their knowledge sufficiently, and they don't 
understand how to market their wares." 

" It's true," Mr. McBirney admitted. 
" They're poorer than Job's turkey. They just 
set around and mourn their fate. They stir up 
a little patch of ground, and think they've done 
everything there is to be done." 

" They're too far from markets and rail- 
roads," said Mr. Carson. " In the beginning the 
mountains called them, they were so beautiful; 
and then they cast a spell over them. It's as if 
the people were hypnotized, and hadn't leave to 



move." 



"That's it," agreed Mrs. McBirney. "You 
see them creeping down into town as shy as deer. 
And you can tell by looking at them, that there 
ain't enough in the pantry to go around. 
They're just plumb starved, that's what they 



are." 



" Starved for lack of food, and society, and 
excitement," Mr. Carson added. "Their 



226 AZALEA 

stomachs and their minds and hearts are empty." 

" Yes, sir, just plumb empty." 

" Well, let's put something in them. What 
do you say, Mr. McBirney? " 

" It certainly would be a fine thing to do, sir. 
Now, how'll you go about it? " 

"Well, we want you and Mrs. McBirney to 
co-operate with us. We want you to take charge 
of the chair factory that we mean to start, and 
we want Mrs. McBirney to preside over the 
weaving." 

" And leave the farm, sir? " cried Mary Mc- 
Birney. " You're not ever meaning that, are 
you?" 

" Why, would that be so hard? We'd put you 
up just the sort of cottage you want, you know. 
And you'd be near the school, so that Jim could 
go without using up the best part of his energy 
racing up and down the mountain." 

" I reckon Jimmy does get rather wore out," 
Mary McBirney mused. " And maybe it would 
be better all 'round, Mr. Carson. And yet " 

Mary McBirney's eyes strayed off to the pur- 
ple valley with its silver streams; they rested on 
the low-lying cottage, wreathed in its flowering 
vines and hemmed around with its rose bushes, 



MA SAYS NO 227 

its sweet althea shrubs, its hydrangeas and bridal 
wreaths; they rested on the Pride of India tree 
and the graves beneath; on the towering tulip 
trees under which they sat, and she shook her 
head. 

" No, Mr. Carson," she said gently and with 
the moisture gathering in her eyes, " we 
couldn't never make another place so so 
sweet as this here one. We couldn't 
put our hearts into another place as we 
have into this. Besides, though I thank you 
kindly, sir, I wouldn't want to leave my home to 
work outside. My job is making things bright 
for Thomas and Jim and Azalea, and perhaps 
for Hi, here. If it was so that I really needed 
to work outside, of course I would and never say 
a word. But I'd rather we got along with little, 
and went patched and mended, than for us to 
have more and lose the feeling of home." 

" I can't say the farm has paid any too well," 
Thomas McBirney said, " Sometimes it cer- 
tainly has been hard scratching. And yet, some- 
how, I wouldn't like to cut loose from it. It's 
such a likely prospect we have here." He too 
was looking off at the valley. " Somehow it 
don't seem as if we could move on. Perhaps the 



228 AZALEA 

mountains have cast a spell over us, as you say." 

" Well, I can't blame you if they have," said 
Mr. Carson cordially. " Yet ought you to let 
sentiment like that stand in the way of Jim's 
schooling and your advancement? " 

Thomas McBirney crossed one leg over the 
other, and looked down pensively at his cal- 
loused hands. 

" I don't know as I had ought to," he said 
slowly. " But after all, we're happy here. The 
children was born here. Our little girl 
Molly, you know, that's dead she seems to be 
running over the place still. Seems like I can 
feel her near me, plenty of times. Don't you 
feel that way, ma? " 

Mary McBirney nodded, with her tender 
smile. 

" So," went on Thomas McBirney, " I don't 
know as I ought to leave. But I tell you what 
I can do, Mr. Carson, and what I'd be proud to 
do. Times when I wasn't busy here at the farm, 
I could drive back into the mountains to visit 
men I know, and men I don't exactly know but 
that I've heard tell of, and I could get them to 
working on chairs for you. Then they'd haul 
them down to your place; and maybe some of 



MA SAYS NO 229 

them who ain't as hard to pry loose from the 
rocks as I be, will move down beside your 
factory." 

" Thomas makes the best chairs I ever set in," 
declared Mary McBirney with pride. " Talk 
about getting other men to make chairs! There 
ain't none of them can come up to him." 

" I engage your whole output then," declared 
Mr. Carson, apparently not at all vexed that his 
fine plan had been disarranged. " Get to work, 
Mr. McBirney, and get your boy to work. I'll 
sell the chairs for you at better rates than you 
ever dreamed of." 

" And if you do that," declared Thomas Mc- 
Birney, " you'll take your commission. This 
has got to be on a business basis, sir." 

" Of course, of course," answered Mr. Carson 
hastily. He saw that it would be very easy to 
hurt the pride of this independent man. " We'll 
agree on the commission, and I'll take it. Of 
course I shall need money to build my cottages 
and to run the business." 

Hi had been wriggling like a worm on the 
bench where he sat beside Carin, and now, with 
much blinking and twisting, he managed to say, 
addressing himself to Mr. Carson: 



230 AZALEA 

"Please, sir!" 

" Yes, Hi." 

" My ma, you know," but his cogs stopped 
again. 

" Well, I don't exactly know her, Hi, but I'd 
like to." 

" She can weave, sir, better than anybody. 
She can weave the Tudor Rose, and the Andrew 
Jackson Cabin, and the Diamond and Cat Track 
Oh, most anything. You ought to see her 
weaving. And she can make her own dyes, just 
beautiful. But what's the use? Where she lives 
nobody cares about her weaving. If you'd 
just ask her to come on, sir, since Mrs. McBir- 
ney don't want to, she'd run the place for you, 
fine, and teach the women all the old patterns." 

His little black eyes seemed to hold flames in 
them as he turned his face, twitching with his 
excitement, toward Mr. Carson. 

" Why, Hi, could she really? Where does 
she live? I can go and see her." 

" She lives away over on the far side of 
Steamboat Mountain, sir. Pa's dead, you know, 
and there's three children for ma to care for. 
She drives the horse to town and gets washing, 
and she farms a little. But it ain't much. I 



MA SAYS NO 231 

had to leave home so's I'd not be making her 
feed me. That's why I went away with my 
uncle Sisson." His face flushed scarlet through 
all the brown as he thought of his connection 
with this man whom he hated, and whom he 
knew all these people with him held in 
contempt. 

" You shall go with me, Hi, and show me the 
way. We go by train, of course? " 

" By train first. Then we drive." Little 
drops of sweat broke out on Hi's forehead and 
about his mouth and the tears swam into his hot 
eyes. 

" Oh, if we could be together, here, sir! I 
just want to see my ma so! I've been wanting 
to see her all the time, and now since my arm 
got broke I can't hardly live, I want her so." 

Mary McBirney reached out a hand and 
drew the boy over beside her. He might have 
been ashamed of her petting at another moment, 
but now he nestled up close to her, big boy that 
he was, and looked shyly up into her face. 

" It was being with you, ma'am," he mur- 
mured, " that made me so homesick, I reckon. 
It made me remember what ma was like." 

Mrs. Carson leaned forward to smile on him. 



232 AZALEA 

" We'll have you and your mother together, 
Hi," she declared, the languor gone out of her 
lovely voice, " one way or another. You may 
take my word for that. And if, as you say, she 
can attend to the weaving, why you may be sure 
she shall be given it to do. We can get some one 
to help her keep her house and care for the chil- 
dren. I agree with Mrs. McBirney, a mother 
has to make a happy home. That's her first busi- 
ness and her best business, too, isn't it? But 
since your mother has to have the work outside 
in order to have a home, we'll arrange the best 



we can." 



" I shall learn how to weave, too, mother," 
Carin announced. " O mother, can't I have that 
big room upstairs for a studio? I want to put 
my sketches up on the wall, and have a place to 
paint. Please, mother! I'd be so happy if I 
could have a studio of my own. If everyone 
else is to do something, I want to do something 
too. And I know I can paint. And I know I 
can weave. And I can make baskets. I have 
the dearest ideas for shapes and designs. Oh, 
I'd so much rather do that than study arithmetic 
and grammar." 

" Perhaps there'll be time for both, my dear," 



MA SAYS NO 233 

smiled her mother. " There seems to be a great 
deal of time down here. I'm having a friend of 
mine come down to act as governess for Carin," 
Mrs. Carson said, turning to Mrs. McBirney. 
" She will teach her at home for the present, for 
I don't feel as if I could let her go away to 
boarding school yet. Fortunately, my friend, 
Miss Parkhurst, paints charmingly in water 
colors, and so Carin will be able to take some 
lessons in that. Carin wants to make an artist 
of herself, and I'm sure I'd love to have her if 
she really has the talent. Well, come, Charles, 
we must be riding down the mountain. Will 
you meet Azalea this afternoon, Mr. Mc- 
Birney?" 

" You just believe I will, ma'am," declared 
Thomas McBirney, going forward to hold Mrs. 
Carson's horse for her. " And it will be as 
happy an errand as I ever took, ma'am." 

" We'll be pleased to see you often, ma'am," 
said Mrs. McBirney' in her quaint way, as she 
stood beside Mrs. Carson's beautiful white 
mare, looking up into the delicate, lovely face of 
the woman above her. " It's a great privilege 
for me to know you, ma'am." 

" It's one of the best things that has come to 



234 AZALEA 

me to know you, Mary McBirney," responded 
the other, leaning down to grasp the firm hand 
of her new friend. " I feel warmed all over 
when I'm with you. And I'm so glad you've 
decided to keep inside your home. I'm even 
glad that your husband has made up his mind 
to stay up here on the mountain, though I must 
confess that it sets back our plans a little. But 
it will all come out all right. We'll find some 
one who needs to come. As for you I mean 
' you-all ' " she laughed lightly, " as you say, 
you're better right here in this beautiful spot. 
Let me come often, will you? " 

" Come as often as you can, ma'am. It cer- 
tainly will make me thankful to have you." 
Mary McBirney spoke from the heart. Idle 
compliments were not in her line. She was 
offering her friendship, and Mrs. Carson, who 
had known brilliant and charming women and 
had had their devotion in plenty, felt her heart 
swell with satisfaction. She had known lovely 
women, but never one in whose eyes the lights 
of home seemed to glow as they did in Mary 
McBirney's. 

Good-byes were said by all save Hi. He, it 
seemed, was not to be found. He had slipped 



MA SAYS NO 235 

away in his own fashion, and at that moment he 
lay on the red pine needles back of the cabin, 
" just bawling," as he would have phrased it. 
He was astonished at himself, and thoroughly 
disgusted. He remembered that during all of 
his troubles, when Sisson beat him, when he 
went hungry, when he lay out in the wet, he had 
not once " bawled." It seemed perfectly dis- 
gusting that he should be doing it now when 
everything was coming all right. 



CHAPTER XIII 

AT HOME AGAIN 

At four o'clock that afternoon, at which time 
the train bearing Mr. Thompson and Azalea 
was due at Lee, Ma McBirney went to the 
" Outlook " and fastened an old sheet in the 
crotch of the tulip trees, and there being a fine 
breeze blowing across the flank of the mountain, 
it caught the folds of this copious flag and 
spread it to the breeze. 

" Azalea will be the first to see it, likely," 
thought Mrs. McBirney. " She has such sharp 
eyes." 

But the sharp eyes of Azalea were busy, at 
that moment, staring disconsolately from the car 
window, many miles from home. For there was 
a freight wreck not far ahead of them, and, ac- 
cording to the conductor, there was no telling 
when they could move on. 

It was quite possible for Mary McBirney to 
hear the roar of the approaching train from her 
high-swung home-nest, although the railroad 

236 



AT HOME AGAIN 237 

lay across the valley from them, but Jim had 
come home from school and heard all the story, 
and he and Hi had sat on the bench and nearly 
stared their eyes out watching for the locomo- 
tive to push its black nose over the gap, and sup- 
per had been eaten, and the darkness settled 
down for the night, before the shrill and 
apologetic whistle of the engine was heard. 

" That child will be clean starved," ma said 
to the boys. " And pa, too, unless he had the 
sense to go to the inn and get supper. And I 
don't suppose he did, me not being along. 
Seems like married men didn't know enough to 
eat unless their wives was by to tell 'em when to 
do it." 

Not that Ma McBirney was scolding. She 
was merely passing the time. 

" I reckon we'd best take that there sheet in, 
ma, and swing out the lantern," Jim said as he 
heard the distant shriek of the train. 

" It sure will cheer them up to see it," ma 
said. " It's all ready for use, Jim. I filled it 
and polished it yesterday." 

So Jim climbed up the tulip tree to the first 
long, out-reaching branch, and swung out a 
serviceable headlight lantern. 



238 AZALEA 

"There!" said Jim descending, "It looks 
like the morning star." 

And so it did to the homesick eyes of the girl 
who sat snuggled close to Pa McBirney, sitting 
all starched and prim, in the pink gingham 
frock of little Barbara Summers. 

"What's that, please?" she cried, nudging 
pa's arm. "That away up on the mountain? 
That's not a star, is it? It's too low down." 

"Sho!" ejaculated pa, "that's ma's lantern. 
She's telling us to hurry up. You hear, you 
there?" he called good-naturedly to the horses. 

" Perhaps the boys will come down to meet 



us." 



" No they won't, Azalea. At least, Jim won't. 
He'll stay with his ma. As much as we can, 
Azalea, we-all must stay with ma. It ain't good 
for her to be alone too much. I've been talking 
that over with Jim and he thinks just like I do. 
She's had too much trouble, ma has, to be left 
alone to brood over them. Not that she's a fret- 
ting one. But she's deep, ma is." 

" I know." 

" It just seemed like her heart would break 
when you was took away, Azalea. She sets 
great store by you almost as much as she did 



AT HOME AGAIN 239 

by Molly. You see, she's turned the love she 
had for Molly, right on you. So you be good 
to her, sister, won't you now?" 

" Oh, indeed I will! Just as good as I know 
how." 

" You're a bright girl, Zalie, and I feel it in 
my bones that there's fine things in store for 
you. But I'm going to say right now, that if you 
can, I want you to stick to ma. If you can, 
Azalea. Of course I don't want you to stand in 
your own light." 

The girl slipped a hand into the arm of Pa 
McBirney. Then she pointed up the valley to 
where the light shone from the " Outlook." 

" That's my light, pa," she said softly. 

Haystack Thompson, who had stayed in town 
for the night, putting up at the inn and intend- 
ing to return to his neglected farm in the morn- 
ing, had given Mr. McBirney an account of 
Azalea's adventures, but now pa begged to hear 
them again from the girl's lips. So she told him 
everything in her sweet wistful voice. 

" It seems like I'm a dreadful lot of trouble 
to you," she said. " I can't see why it is that I 
had to bring you all this worry." 



240 AZALEA 

"Why tain't your fault, Zalie. What's the 
use of talking like that? " 

" It seems like I'm not the way other girls are. 
I've had such a strange life, Pa McBirney." 

" Well it hain't been very long yet, girl - 
hardly long enough to be strange, you might 
say." 

" Yes it has, pa. It's been short and strange. 
Now really, you know, I ought to be living in 
The Shoals. That's my house at least, I mean 
it might have been. That old Colonel Atherton 
you told Jim about, and that he told me about, 
was my grandfather." 

She said it in a musing way, as if she attached 
very little importance to it, and her hand still 
rested on the arm of Pa McBirney. 

" What's that! " roared pa. " What you say- 
ing, girl? Whoa there, Mac. Whoa Nannie," 
He brought the horses to such a short stop that 
the stones crashed away from hoofs and wheels 
down the steep grade of the road. " Just say 
that again, will ye? " 

" I found it out while I was away, pa. Betty 
Bowen told me. She said mamma never wanted 
to come down this way, so near her old home, 
until just at the last, when she knew she couldn't 



AT HOME AGAIN 241 

live. But it don't matter, pa. You don't think 
any less of me for being the granddaughter of 
that man, do you? I can't help being related 
to him anyway." 

"Sho!" exclaimed pa. "What you talking 
about, girl? He may have been a foolish man 
in the heat of all the trouble of the war, and 
done things that hadn't ought to have been done, 
but he was quality, Azalea. They was great 
folks, the Athertons." 

" Well, the only ones I know anything about," 
said Azalea with a choke in her voice, " were 
wandering show folks; and one of them was a 
friendless orphan, Pa McBirney, till you and 
ma took her in. There wasn't any great folks 
about her. There was just a miserable little 
wretch. Don't change toward me, pa, please, 
please! Don't go and tell Jim and Hi. Maybe 
they'd think I w r as putting on airs. Just let 
everything go on the way it is." 

" Nothing ever goes on the way it was," said 
pa profoundly, clucking to his horses. " But I 
see what you mean, girl, and since you and me is 
pretty good friends, I'll do what you want me 
to do. I'll stand by you because we are friends." 

He felt the girl's grateful lips pressed against 



242 AZALEA 

the rough sleeve of his coat, and he laughed 
down at her in a kindly, almost pitying way. 

" See here, Zalie," he said, " don't you get to 
caring too much for us. Don't you get to caring 
too much for nothing. You hear me? Keep 
calm, Zalie. Keep calm. Folks that cares too 
much gets in a lot of trouble." 

" Do they? " laughed the girl. The remark 
seemed to strike her as very funny, and her gay 
laughter rang out like silver bells on the night 
air. The horses quickened their steps as they 
heard it, and a discouraged looking old " houn'- 
dog " came out from a tumble-down cabin and 
bayed at them. 

But Pa McBirney refused to be amused. 

" I mean what I say," he declared. 

Azalea pulled herself together and stopped 
laughing. 

" I know I'm silly, pa, but I'm so happy! 
You can't think how happy I am ! There now, 
don't you try to tell me not to be too happy, be- 
cause I've simply got to be happy to-night. 
Now, I'll be good and talk like a sensible per- 
son all the rest of the ride. I want to tell you 
more about Mr. Summers, and my cousin Bar- 
bara." 



AT HOME AGAIN 243 

" Your cousin Barbara? " 

"Yes, Mrs. Summers, you know. She's so 
little she seems almost like a girl. And we made 
up our minds to be kin." 

"Oh, you did, did you?" 

" Yes. We're going to write to each other just 
like we were cousins. See? " 

" Eh-huh." 

" I just love her!" 

" There you go again." 

" Well, I can't help it if I do. Tell me about 
Carin, pa." 

" I reckon she'll be up to see you to-morrow 
to tell you everything herself. She's going into 
some kind of picture making, and her pa and 
ma is simply rooting up the earth, doing things." 
He told her about the project for developing the 
mountain industries and the part they all were 
to play in it. 

" Something laid out for every last one of us, 
you see." 

" Except me, pa. Didn't they make plans for 
me?" 

" They didn't mention any, but I suspicion 
that they've got more plans for you than for 
anybody else. And that makes me feel kind 



244 AZALEA 

o' bothered, on ma's account. Now that you tell 
me about your being the granddaughter of old 
Colonel Atherton, with a sort of right to live in 
the great house though it did pass out of the 
family years ago I'm more bothered than 



ever." 



Azalea laughed again. 

" I don't believe you're bothered at all, pa," 
she declared. " Why, here we are, home ! Why, 
we're really homel Didn't the time pass 
quickly? Ma! Ma! Hullo, boys! Where's 
ma?" 

Mary McBirney folded the slight form of the 
girl in her arms. 

" My prayers was answered," she said simply. 
" Just bear witness, children. They was all 
answered. It's a lesson to us, ain't it? If we 
want anything of the Lord, just ask him, believ- 
ing. Are you clean starved out, pet? Come 
right along in and have supper. Pa, the 
boys will 'put up the horses. You hike in the 
house and eat something decent. I suppose you 
had some kind of stuff down at that there inn. 
My land, it's a wonder to me them folks can't 
learn how to cook." 

She led the girl in and seated her before the 



AT HOME AGAIN 245 

table with its fine bread, its glasses of foaming 
milk, its cottage cheese and honey. Then she 
pushed her husband to his seat, and hung over 
him, then fluttered to Azalea to hang over her 
like an anxious mother bird. 

" Here's a little hot ham to help quell your 
appetites. And here's some hominy cakes. My 
goodness, Azalea, do eat something. Pa, you 
just ruined your appetite down there in that 
miserable eating place. Ain't it wonderful to 
have Zalie home again, pa? The ways of the 
Lord are past our comprehending. You must 
tell me everything, Zalie every last thing." 

The lights from the homemade candles flut- 
tered softly against the brown walls. Far off, 
the whippoorwills called. The chill freshness 
of the night-enshrouded mountain stole in the 
door, and when the boys had returned from put- 
ting up the horses, the family shut out the silent, 
shadowy world about them and drew around the 
table. Their faces, earnest, eager, loving, came 
into the full light from the candle dips. And 
there, far into the night, Azalea talked to them, 
secure in her sense of love and peace. 

Afterward, when they all had lighted her to 
her chamber, and then had left her, she stood 



246 AZALEA 

for a while on her little gallery listening to the 
whippoorwills and looking at the low stars. It 
seemed as if messages of good will came from 
the birds, from the near dark forest, from the 
loud-singing stream. All was familiar and dear. 
And her fragrant chamber welcomed her with 
the silent sweetness to be found only in well- 
loved rooms. 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE SACRIFICE 

Among the wide acres of the Atherton place 
was a certain field known since the memory of 
the grandfathers as " The Field of Arrows." 
It was a level, sunny spot, surrounded by low 
hills. It backed, indeed, against a hill, and a 
little stream with mirror-like pools ran around 
it with scythelike grace. The Field of Arrows N 
was almost a semicircle, and it was as pleasant 
a spot as any around about Lee, beautiful though 
that region was. 

It had taken its name from the great number 
of flint arrowheads, the handicraft of the Chero- 
kees or of some earlier race, who had camped 
or fought in that spot. Perhaps they had raised 
their maize there too. At any rate, the good 
Indian corn was growing there now, putting up 
its bladelike leaves courageously to the young 
summer air. Midway of the field, that is to say, 
reaching from the center of its base and running 
to the highest point of its circle, a fine broad 

247 



248 AZALEA 

pathway stretched, and beside this path poppies 
and daisies, mint and mountain pinks had leave 
to grow when their hour should come. The 
path led from the stepping stones and the shady 
cove where the kettles and tubs stood for wash- 
ing, to a cabin with two picturesque outside 
chimneys made of the field stone and the reliable 
red clay, which held them together with brave 
determination. A light gallery ran in front of 
the house, with benches made of stout ash, 
pushed back against the wall, and that best of 
drinking cups, a long-handled, polished gourd, 
hung on the wall above an old Indian water 
jar, hollowed from soapstone. 

Within were four rooms of equal size, and 
back of the house was a summer kitchen. And 
everything about the place, from the latticed 
passageway that led to the kitchen, to the service- 
able crane that swung in the chief fireplace, 
spoke of home and comfort. The little windows 
looked out on a prosperous scene; the mulberry 
tree, with its golden bark, had places of hiding 
and nestling for half a dozen children. The 
bowlders in the stream sheltered ideal swimming 
holes. The chestnut and butternut trees on the 



THE SACRIFICE 249 

hill behind the house suggested happy autumn 
days. 

" It will be a perfect place for children," 
decided Mrs. Carson. " And that's where Hi's 
family shall live." 

She had taken him to see it, and he had looked 
at it with eyes which seemed to recognize it as a 
home returned to, rather than as one just found. 

So, while he and Mr. Carson took their three 
days' journey to Hi's home, Mrs. Carson busied 
herself with the cabin. The lattice was freshly 
whitewashed; the fireplaces within the house 
and the chimneys that ran up visibly to the ceil- 
ing, were painted a dark red. The floors and 
walls were purified, and the whole place fur- 
nished with new, strong mountain furniture. 
Rag rugs were put on the floor, fresh curtains at 
the windows, a good stove set up in the kitchen, 
the comfortable beds were provided with new 
bedding, and a fine little old clock, taken from 
the attic of The Shoals, and a mirror from the 
same place, in its antique frame, were set in 
place. 

" Tell your mother to come right along," Mrs. 
Carson had warned Hi. " If she has any par- 
ticular treasure she wishes to bring, well and 



250 AZALEA 

good. But she's not to bother about anything 
else. She'll be glad to have new things to look 
at. Women get dreadfully tired looking at the 
same furniture day in and day out. I believe a 
new outfit for the house at the right time would 
have kept many a woman from going insane." 

" Yessum," agreed Jim. "Going over and 
over a thing is what wears you out, ain't it? " 

Mrs. Carson had held some doubts as to the 
ability of her husband and Hi to persuade a 
woman to " pull up stakes " at an hour's notice 
and to go to a place she perhaps had never heard 
of. But it appeared that Mrs. Kitchell, like her 
son, was ready for adventure. Asking no more 
time than it took to wash and iron the handful 
of clothes possessed by the family, she packed 
all her worldly goods or at least, all she cared 
to retain in an old haircloth trunk, and smil- 
ing and expectant, turned her face toward Lee. 
It was a little brown, nutlike face, much like 
Hi's, and it was really carved in smiles in spite 
of all her troubles. There were worried marks 
between her brows, it is true, but the laughing 
marks about her eyes and the corners of her 
mouth, discounted them. 

The democrat wagon from The Shoals was 



THE SACRIFICE 251 

at the station to meet the party, and Mrs. Car- 
son, who had driven down in her little pony 
cart, helped to get the family settled in it. The 
little hair trunk was put in behind, and the tribe 
of Kitchell, with a new light in their bright 
black eyes, turned to the future. 

" A dear little strong, staunch woman, isn't 
she? " said Lucy Carson to her husband as they 
drove toward their home. " And the two girls 
are as nice little daughters as anyone would care 
to have much better looking than Hi. But 
the fourth child, the little boy, looks sickly. 
We'll have to put him on special diet plenty 
of milk and eggs." 

Mr. Carson smiled happily to himself. The 
languor was going out of his wife's voice; the 
pallor of her face was flushed with a lovely rose 
pink. As she sat beside him, in her soft cream- 
colored frock, with her lilac scarf drifting from 
her shoulders, her pale amethysts in their setting 
of old yellow gold clasping collar and belt, he 
thought her the sweetest woman he ever had 
seen. She was sweeter even than before sorrow 
had come to her. He had loved her then; but 
there was something very like worship in the 
feeling he had toward her now. 



252 AZALEA 

" We'll drive on through the hills the short 
way," she said, brimful and flowing over with 
the home-romance of the Kitchells, " and be at 
the door to welcome them." 

And so they were. As the democrat wagon 
drew up, filled with the wondering and some- 
what awed Kitchells, their good " neighbors " 
they would not have tolerated the word 
" benefactors " stood at the door of the cabin 
to meet them. And tired little Anne Kitchell, 
her four children following her, stepped into 
the door of her new home. The old life with 
the shame of a drunken husband, killed in a 
shameful row, was left behind. She had the 
chance to begin a new life, and to this feeling 
the new furniture of the house contributed more 
than she could realize. 

Hi ran from room to room, staring, his big 
mouth open, his heart swelling. Once he waved 
his long arms over his head, unable to contain 
himself, and not wanting to really whoop with 
delight. He listened while Mrs. Carson talked 
to his mother of this and that; showed her the 
kitchen and the store closets, with their supplies 
of food and of house linen, and the plain, good 
wardrobes she had prepared for the family. 



THE SACRIFICE 253 

" If I've made any mistakes, Mrs. Kitchell, 
the things can be changed. I worked according 
to Hi's direction. No, you're not to thank me. 
Not at all. This is a sort of bonus offered you 
for your being so obliging in coming to us in 
our need. We want to get our factory started 
as soon as possible, and we couldn't spare you 
the time to sew for your family." 

She spoke in a brisk bright way new to her, 
and even Hi, boy that he was, could see that a 
great change was coming over her. She had 
reminded him of a tall white lily, drooping at 
the close of a hot day; but now she was like that 
same lily in the morning, and her petals were 
touched with pink. 

So Anne Kitchell was not allowed to weep out 
her gratitude, though a dozen times she thought 
she was going to; she was rilled, instead, with a 
new desire to work and to " be somebody." 
There was no one here to saddle the old shame- 
ful stories on her to refer to her as a drunk- 
ard's wife. She would be taken at her own 
valuation, and in her keen, quick little brain she 
began to understand that the valuation might be 
a high one if she chose to make it so. 

Mary McBirney gave her only a day or two 



254 AZALEA 

to settle herself in her new home, and then, with 
a pail of mountain honey and a crock of cottage 
cheese by way of gifts, she came to see her. 
They liked each other at once, though the life 
of one had enabled her to make the best of her- 
self, and the life of the other had kept her right- 
ing like an angry rat. But the honesty that 
underlay the character of each, and the interest 
each had in Hi, and in Azalea indeed, in 
children in general helped them over the 
little strangeness they might have felt. 

But Ma McBirney was restless. There was 
something on her conscience something that 
had been there ever since her husband had told 
her that Azalea was the granddaughter of old 
Colonel Atherton, and that, if fortune had 
treated her kindly, The Shoals, and all the com- 
forts and opportunities that went with the pos- 
session of the estate, would have been hers. 
True, the fine place had passed legitimately into 
the hands of the Carsons ; yet knowing the gen- 
erous and abounding nature of the Carsons as 
she did, she realized that were they to be told the 
truth about Azalea, they would at once offer her 
a home, and would give her an education such 
as their own daughter was receiving. 



THE SACRIFICE 255 

" I'm a wicked woman," said Mary McBir- 
ney to herself. " I'm selfish and sinful. Just 
to give myself happiness, I'm keeping that dear 
child away from what belongs to her." 

The thought had goaded her for days. More, 
it had crept into the wakeful hours of the night. 
It had tortured her as she watched Azalea busy 
about the house, singing, or thinking in her in- 
tense, curious way. When the girl flung her 
arms about Ma McBirney's neck, calling her 
the sweetest thing in the world, and saying how 
happy she was to be back with her again, it 
seemed as if Ma McBirney's heart actually 
turned over in her side, with dread of losing her, 
and with shame at her own cowardice. 

So, on the day she called on Mrs. Kitchell, 
she summoned her better angel though it was 
difficult to imagine that Mary McBirney could 
be surrounded with anything but good angels - 
and made her way to The Shoals. 

From every window of the great white house 
fluttered orange and white awnings. The lawn 
was trim and green ; the flower beds aglow with 
lovely fresh blooms. Hammocks and couches 
swung on the wide gallery, and linen-covered 
chairs and great East Indian jugs filled with 



256 AZALEA 

growing plants, stood about. Ma McBirney 
paused before the wide door with its fan-shaped 
transom and looked about her wistfully. By 
saying a word, Azalea could leave the humble 
little home which was now hers, and come down 
to enjoy the bright hospitality of this beautiful 
place. Music, books, travel all of these 
things would come to her. Mary McBirney 
remembered how she herself had longed for op- 
portunity in those early days when she first be- 
came aware of her ignorance, and how she had 
" given up " and gone her quiet way the way 
to which she was born. But Azalea was not 
like that. She could not be happy in giving up 
an education and all that would go to make her 
capable and able to measure herself with the 
best. What had meant contentment for her, 
Mary McBirney, would mean failure for 
Azalea. 

She turned these matters over in her large, 
kind mind, and rang Mrs. Carson's door- 
bell. 

Mrs. Carson's parlor maid, black, smiling, 
and chubby, answered the summons. 

"Tulula Darthula," said Mrs. McBirney in 
her soft voice, " might I see your mistress? " 



THE SACRIFICE 257 

" I'll inquiah, ma'am," replied Tulula in even 
softer tones. " Be pleased to enteh." 

Mrs. McBirney would have been quite con- 
tent to sit on the porch, but the thoughts surging 
in her brain impelled her to accept Tulula's 
invitation. 

" Will you be seated in the mornin' room, 
ma'am? " 

Mrs. McBirney hesitated a moment. Then 
she said shyly: 

" If you don't think Mrs. Carson would mind, 
Tulula, I'd like to sit in the drawing room this 
time." 

" Why ce't'ney, ma'am. Suit yo'sef." 

Tulula rustled away with her message, and 
Mary McBirney, who all her life had seen only 
the mountain or the village homes, entered the 
long shadowy drawing room, with its paintings, 
its occasional white statue, its shining floor and 
carved furniture, and sitting there, measuring 
all this meant of knowledge and delight, steeled 
her heart for the sacrifice. 

Then Mr. and Mrs. Carson entered together, 
and upborn by love, Mrs. McBirney went to 
meet them, saying : 



258 AZALEA 

" I asked to come in here for for a reason. 
I hope you don't mind, ma'am." 

" Our home is for our friends," answered 
Mrs. Carson gently. " I would like to see you 
here often, friend." 

She knew, somehow, that Mary McBirney 
had a great thing to say. 

"This is the reason:" said Mrs. McBirney. 

And then she told them the whole story. 

***** 

It had been rainy Sunday. The rain began 
before daylight; it wiped out the sunrise, and 
it turned what should have been a golden mid- 
summer day into mere blankness and desolation. 
At least, a person could look at it that way if he 
wanted to. 

Up at the McBirney house no one had thought 
of dressing for church. 

" No one but a fish could get anywhere to- 
day," said Jim. 

" I feel just as if we were living under a water- 
fall," declared Azalea. " What'll we do to-day, 
Jim?" 

" I don't know 'less you tell me stories." 

" Piggy* I don't want to do all the thinking. 
If I tell stories you've got to tell them too. It's 



THE SACRIFICE 259 

nice we're going to have chicken for dinner, isn't 
it? " She sniffed the air contentedly. 

" You bet it is. And strawberries and 'lasses 
cake!" 

" I wonder what Carin's doing, Jim? " 

" Fooling 'round in that there studio of hern. 
My, but she can paint, can't she? Did you see 
that picture she done of me sitting up in the 
wilier? " 

" Jim McBirney, what makes you talk like 
that? You know better than to say * done ' for 
' did ' and you know willow isn't pronounced 
1 wilier.' " 

" Now, look here, Zalie, you leave me alone 
and let me talk like I want to. I ain't got on my 
Sunday clothes, have I ? Well then, I don't have 
to put on Sunday talk. Just let me feel comfort- 
able s can't you? " 

" I wish Carin were up here to-day." 

" And Hi. I'd rather have Hi. Carin makes 
me kind o' squirm. She's a mighty nice girl, but 
she don't make me feel to home." 

" Oh, Jim, she's lovely. And such fun too! 
She can get up the best plays you ever heard 
of." 



260 AZALEA 

" Girl plays, I reckon. She couldn't think of 
anything that would interest boys." 

. " Maybe boys wouldn't have the sense to be 
interested, smarty." 

" Children," broke in the soft voice of Ma 
McBirney, " I've got the dinner in the oven and 
there ain't nothing occupying me just at present. 
Wouldn't one of you read me a story from them 
Youth's Companions Carin sent home by pa 
last night? Seems as if it would pass the time." 

The children flushed a little. They knew 
when ma disliked their way of talking. She 
had her own particular fashion of correcting 
them. 

" You read, Azalea," said Jim, sinking into a 
chair and staring out of the rain-beaten window. 
" And you'll have to read good and loud to get 
ahead of this bellering and roaring." 

And, indeed, the wind shook the cabin, and 
the rain fluttered down the chimney; the stream 
that tumbled down the mountain side was fairly 
shouting and the trees were beating their 
drenched branches together with a sound like 
the rushing of great birds. But high above the 
elemental din, Azalea's clear voice arose. And 
peace dwelt within the cabin. It dwelt there 



THE SACRIFICE 261 

while the children set the table for the good 
dinner that Mrs. McBirney had cooked, and 
while they devoured that dinner with perfect 
concentration of purpose. And afterward, when 
ma had read a psalm to them, and pa had told a 
story about something that happened to him 
when he was a boy and the fires were raging 
over the mountains, they settled down to a quiet 
game of jack straws on the deal table. 

And then, just as they were on the point of 
being bored again, the storm cleared. Above 
them the deep blue sky shone through the fleecy 
whiteness of the clouds, and beneath them torn 
fragments of cloud swam along like floating 
islands over the purple valley. The sunset came 
in rose and gold, and in the east a proud young 
moon, bright as a happy bride, swam up into the 
heavens. 

The McBirneys, silent and happy, cloaked 
against the dampness, sat at " Outlook Point " 
and looked about them at the beautiful world. 

" This is as good as church, to my way of 
thinking," remarked Thomas McBirney. " If 
you can't worship the Almighty when you see 
a thing like this, then there ain't no manner of 
worship in you." 



262 AZALEA 

"What's that, Thomas? Singing?" asked 
his wife. 

Something sweet and clear troubled the 
silence, and as the four harkened it swelled. 

" Singing!" decided Thomas. " Who can it 
be?" 

They listened. 

" I know," cried Azalea gayly. " It's the Car- 
sons! Oh, ma, it's Carin and her father and 
mother." 

Something gripped Mary McBirney's loving, 
jealous heart. She knew why they were coming. 
She had asked them to come for this very 
thing, but when the rain had set in, it had 
seemed like an answer to her secret prayers 
those prayers which she would not admit to 
herself that she prayed, and which were no more 
than her " heart's sincere desire." 

The horses drew nearer; the words of the song 
could be heard. 

" Now the day is over, 
Night is drawing nigh " 

The three voices, softly blended, sang the 
familiar lines to the slow motion of their horses. 



THE SACRIFICE 263 

Azalea ran to the edge of the " Outlook " and 
sent her clear voice, rested and refreshed from 
the strain it had undergone in the days of her 
enforced singing of noisy songs, ringing down 
the mountain side. 

" Shadows of the evening, 
Steal across the sky." 

The tightness at Ma McBirney's heart in- 
creased. How like her Azalea was to these 
others like them in voice and manner, and 
unafraid of them! They had heard her, for Mr. 
Carson interrupted himself to call out to her. 
Then the song went on, and there were four 
singing it. 

" Jesus give the weary 
Calm and sweet repose; 
With Thy tenderest blessing, 
May our eyelids close." 

Now the sounds grew fainter as the windings 
of the road took them away; then they swelled 
again, as the horses returned on the winding 
road. But Azalea sang on, delighting in the 



264 AZALEA 

song her mother had taught her the song that 
had comforted her when she had grown sick at 
heart at all the silly things she had been obliged 
to sing when she was " the show girl." 

" Grant to little children, 

Visions bright of Thee; 
Guard the sailors tossing 
On the deep, blue sea." 

"They are here," said Ma McBirney in so 
solemn a voice that Jim and Azalea stared at 
her, wondering. 

And so they were. They dismounted easily, 
threw their bridles, Western fashion, over the 
heads of their horses, and walked forward with 
pleasant greetings. But even their voices were 
different. They too seemed solemn. 

" It must be the night," thought Azalea. She 
took Carin's hand, and they all walked back to 
the Point, and sat there watching the little 
islands of cloud as they floated across the path 
of the moon and turned from cloud into some- 
thing precious and radiant, not quite so pale as 
silver nor as bright as gold. 



CHAPTER XV 

AZALEA CHOOSES 

" We might be eagles or angels," mur- 
mured Mrs. Carson, sinking into her seat. 

" We couldn't stand it in the house any 
longer," Carin explained. " We made up our 
minds we'd have a ride even if the roads were 
bad." 

" The ford must have been pretty deep," re- 
marked Pa McBirney. 

" I took the leading straps of the horses the 
ladies were riding, and we made a rush for it 
together," Mr. Carson explained. 

Then silence fell. There certainly was some- 
thing strange about the night. 

" We had other reasons for coming up here 
to-night," Mr. Carson said at last. " We came 
because we knew that we could sit out here with 
you all, and that we could all look at this won- 
derful scene, and forget all about our bodies, 
and our troubles, and our little human way of 
looking at things. We could be, as my wife 

265 



266 AZALEA 

said, like eagles, or like angels. We could re- 
alize that we really were spirits." 

It was Ma McBirney who murmured: 

" Yes." 

" We came," went on Mr. Carson gently, " to 
ask Azalea to make a choice. We are going to 
invite her to live with us and to be as our own 
daughter. She will share equally with Carin in 
everything; at least as far as it is possible for us 
to make an equal division. We know the story of 
her life and that under more fortunate circum- 
stances the home we live in would have been 
hers. She would have been educated in the best 
manner and fitted for the life of a lady of posi- 
tion. Now, of our four children only one is 
left. So we offer her a share of our hearts and 
our substance. Do you understand, Azalea? " 

Carin threw an arm about Azalea's waist. 

" Oh, say yes, dear. We will be so happy." 

" We will make you welcome from our heart 
of hearts," said Mrs. Carson. But it seemed as 
if she were holding something back; and Azalea 
saw her white hand laid upon Ma McBirney's 
arms. 

The moon had gone under a dense cloud, and 
they were left in the bland, moist darkness. And 



AZALEA CHOOSES 267 

in that darkness there gleamed before Azalea's 
mental gaze, the two homes the great, beau- 
tiful manor, and the mountain cabin. She knew 
little of the life in the former, but what she did 
know of it came to her now with all its ease, its 
pleasure, and its promise. She thought of the 
struggle there in the mountain home; of the 
sacrifice, the hard work, the eternal " doing 
without." Then, as if something above and be- 
yond her came to her to lift her out of herself, 
she glimpsed the kind wishes and helpful affec- 
tion of those in the manor; and over against 
them she placed the tense and tender love of 
Mary McBirney who had clasped her to her 
heart when she was motherless. 

They did not need her at the manor; but she 
was greatly needed in the cabin. Love de- 
manded tribute of her. And suddenly, Azalea 
knew what she must do. If Ma McBirney 
loved her like a mother, she, Azalea, gave back 
a daughter's love. There was, after all, nothing 
worth thinking of save that save love. A 
warm glow swept over her, and the deepest sense 
of contentment she ever had known in all her 
restless, curious life of change rilled her heart. 

" I've thought of everything," she said. 



268 AZALEA 

" And I thank you, thank you, thank you 
you dears!" She turned toward the Carsons, 
and they could see that she was holding out her 
hands in the gloom. " But this is my home. Ma 
McBirney is dearer to me than any one now on 
the earth. I'll stay with her if she wants me." 

And then she suddenly remembered that Mrs. 
McBirney had not said a word to oppose Mr. 
Carson's arguments. Could it be, that because 
of their poverty, they wished her to go to The 
Shoals? Little cold tremors ran over her, and 
her heart turned sick. 

" But, ma, do you want me? " she cried with 
sharp agony. 

"Want you!" sobbed ma, holding out her 
arms. " Want you, honey bird? " 

The moon swam out again into the clear sky, 
transfiguring their world. A mocking bird 
began to sing, whistling low, muffled notes of 
sad sweetness. 

*' It is the word of truth you have spoken, 
Azalea," said Mr. Carson slowly, " and I thank 
you for your honesty, and for your nobility too, 
my dear. We understand everything; don't we 
Lucy, my love? " 

" Everything," replied Mrs. Carson. 



AZALEA CHOOSES 269 

" But now we have something to say which 
is not a request, but practically a command. 
Next week Miss Parkhurst, a friend of mine 
and a teacher of unusual ability, is coming to 
instruct Carin. You are to come daily, Azalea, 
to share her lessons with her. And that the 
going and coming may not be too much for you, 
we are sending a well-trained little horse to 
you. Its feed and keep shall be, so far as pos- 
sible, the care of my stable boys, so that my good 
friend McBirney, who is so willing to take othe~r 
people's burdens on him, may not have another 
one added. But I promise you all, for myself 
and for Mrs. Carson and Carin, that you shall 
be thought of, Azalea, as the daughter of this 
home here on the mountains. And while we 
shall give you all you will take in the way of 
schooling and development, we will not do one 
thing to win you away from the life you have 
chosen." 

" Thank you, sir," murmured Azalea. She 
could say no more. 

" Oh, thank you," added Ma McBirney, 
crushing down the tormenting little doubts 
that would arise in her heart. Could she really 
keep this scarlet tanager in her wren's nest? 



270 AZALEA 

But no doubts troubled the others. Jim sat 
thinking and thinking. What wonderful things 
came to Zalie! And he he was a gawk a 
dunce a silly hill billy ! He wondered Azalea 
paid any attention to him! And yet, somehow, 
she seemed to think of herself as his sister. Well, 
then, he'd stick by her, sir, no matter what hap- 
pened. Till he was an old man with long white 
whiskers he'd stick by her, and if anyone did 
her any sort of harm, he'd fix him. He almost 
leaped to his feet and stood there straight and 
fierce with his own combat, beside the girl. 

" I forgot to say," observed Mr. Carson in his 
slow way, " that there will be two little horses. 
They were a pair and the man didn't want to 
sell them singly. So the second one is for Jim." 

"No! " cried Jim, and his voice sounded al- 
most defiant in his excitement. 

"Yes!" cried Mr. Carson, mocking him. 
" Shake hands on it." And he wrung Jim's 
hand in his own. Then the boy's shyness came 
on him and made him slip away in the dark- 
ness. Yet he was on hand to hold the horses 
when the Carsons were ready to mount. 

They rode away in the moonlight, with the 
bewitching world of cloud and shine about them. 




He stood there, straight and fierce. 



AZALEA CHOOSES 271 

The trees were transformed into enchanted sil- 
ver things amid which elves and dryads seemed 
to hide ; the rushing water was a torrent of danc- 
ing crystal where the water maidens played. 
The three who rode away, went singing. But 
this time it was a song that Azalea did not know. 
She said so to Ma McBirney with a troubled 
smile. 

" What a lovely, lovely song! And I never so 
much as heard it before." 

Ma Mculincy hissed her slowly, and said with 
meaning: 

" But you see, Zalie, they are going to teach 
it to you." 

Azalea did not answer. She lighted her 
candle. 

" 'Night, Jim," she called. " You couldn't 
get rid of me, could you? " 

" Could if I tried. Didn't try." 

" Good night, Pa McBirney." 

" Good night, daughter." It was the first time 
he ever had called her that. She slipped over 
and bending above him, dropped a kiss on his 
brow as he sat there in the open room the 
queer two-sided chamber that divided the closed 
rooms of the house. 



272 AZALEA 

" I reckon I'd better go to your room with 
you," said Ma McBirney, " and see you safe." 

So together they climbed the rude stairs to 
that cotelike chamber that looked out on the 
transfigured mountain. All about them, save for 
the throating of the mocking bird, was silence. 
And in silence th - two parted for the night. 
They had no need v)f words. Stronger than any 
mere accident of relationship was the love and 
trust in their hearts. 



Books for Older Children byL. Frank Bauni 

The Daring Twins Series 

By L. FRANK BAUM 

IN writing "The Daring 
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Phoebe Daring 

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Publishers The Reilly & Britton Co. Chicago 




The Aunt Jane's Nieces 
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BOOKS FOR GIRLS 

By EDITH VAN DYNE 




SEVEN TITLES 

Aunt Jane's Nieces 
Aunt Jane's Nieces Abroad 
Aunt Jane's Nieces at Millvttle 
Aunt Jane's Nieces at Work 
Aunt Jane's Nieces in Society 
Aunt Jane's Nieces and Uncle John 
Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation 



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Bunty Prescott 
at Englishman's Camp 

By MAJOR M. J. PHILLIPS 

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BUNTY 
PRESCOTT 

AT ENGLISHMAN'S CAMP 



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The 

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Big 

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The Boy Fortune Hunters 
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An Ideal Book for Young Travelers 

Travel Notes Abroad 

MY OWN RECORD 



Arranged by 
CLARA POWERS WILSON 




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A. Memory Book for Younger Girls 



School -Girl Days 

Designed* by 
CLARA POWERS WILSON 



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Classmates Edition 

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